Point row clutches, section control, clutch control, no matter what you call it, it’s one of the best return on investment (ROI) in precision ag. In this blog, we will outline the solutions Ag Leader offers and the benefits of the system.
To begin, section control on a planter consists of a mechanical shut-off device and the electronic controller in the cab with a GPS receiver on the machine.
The shut-off device may be a point row clutch mounted on every row unit or electronic shut-off device that controls a section (multiple rows) of the planter. Ag Leader works with almost all, if not all, shut-off devices on the market – including most OEM, air and electric offerings. Since 2009 Ag Leader has offered their own electric shut-off devices, the SureStop® and the SureVac®.
The electronic controller and GPS receiver are the brains of the operation. They tell each clutch or section to automatically turn on/off based on speed, location, previously planted areas, field boundaries, implement measurements and more. That can be complex but Ag Leader has pioneered in this sphere since 2005 with the introduction of AutoSwath™ and the InSight® display.
The GPS receiver gives the system speed, location and direction information. Clutching accuracy will always be better with more accurate GPS sources, typically any source better than WAAS is recommended though WAAS will work.
Next, I’ll talk about some of the main benefits to a section control system:
Most section control devices are reliable and trouble-free, especially Ag Leader’s SureStop or SureVac clutches.
The SureStop clutch is a sealed unit that mounts on the inside of the row unit. The input and output chains will periodically need to be lubricated to prevent corrosion but otherwise, it’s a very hassle-free unit. Ag Leader has sold a number of these clutches since 2009 and the failure rate has been extremely low.
SureVac clutches are also very reliable and trouble free. SureVac is intended for John Deere vac planters from roughly 1991 on, it simply replaces the existing seed meter door and plugs into the electric harness. The SureVac clutch is essentially a solenoid mounted to the plastic door cover so there aren’t many moving parts. You will want to periodically inspect the rub pad as it is a wear item, details can be found here.
The main agronomic benefit to section control is to reduce planting overlap and in turn increase yield. In headlands or point row areas where plants (especially corn) are encroaching on each other’s space, there is a risk that multiple plants will fight for their own resources. Sometimes these plants will not even put on an ear.
Low Investment Cost
Since clutch control has been around for many years, planters with clutches already installed are more prevalent on the market. Also, older and/or lower priced controllers are capable of running section control.
When purchasing new, clutches are simpler – therefore more affordable – than electric meter drives. All these factors help to keep the cost lower on these systems.
Seed Cost Savings
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a section control system is the seed savings. Today’s high tech seed is not cheap and not getting any cheaper! Seed savings can be dramatic with clutch control, especially if your fields have a lot of point rows.