Northeast Ag Students Build 4-Row Planter

Published on: August 27, 2019

NORFOLK, NE – Bolt by bolt, piece by piece, a four-row planter gradually took shape over about five weeks as part of a recent Precision Agriculture Hardware class at Northeast Community College in Norfolk.

The 20 students, with guidance from instructor Chance Lambrecht, assembled the planter that features cutting-edge precision agriculture technologies.

Constructing a plot planter from scratch was the brainchild of the Osmond native, who is in his third year as a precision agriculture instructor at Northeast.

The College’s Precision Agriculture Program was launched in fall 2016, and just finished its third year. In 2018, 17 Northeast students received associate of applied science degrees in precision agriculture.

Over two years, students in this program develop technical skills and learn to interpret, analyze, and utilize data gathered from precision agriculture technologies to maximize crop yield potential through resource-efficient practices. These skills will be beneficial to the future technicians and producers in the rapidly changing agricultural industry.

The planter construction phase included ordering parts and checking in parts that were delivered in a mixture of dozens of cardboard boxes and wood pallets.

Lambrecht said that “after understanding how the machine works, and how parts relate to one another, we will be doing some troubleshooting and diagnosing of problems associated with mechanical issues and electrical issues.” That knowledge can help relieve downtime in the field, he said.

One by one, the parts were added to a four-row tool bar during twice-weekly lab periods that were preceded by in-classroom instruction.

During one lab period, some students read directions on how to install the single- row modules that process information and take readings during the planting process. Some students, armed with combination wrenches, tackled the installation of hydraulic hoses.

After pointing out that one of the hoses was twisted during installation, Lambrecht shared what he called a “take-home message.” Twisting shortens the life of a hose, he said.

Justin Evert of Howells received his associate’s degree in agronomy in May 2017 and returned to Northeast for the precision ag program. “Our planter at home is pretty basic compared to what’s all on here,” he said, pointing to the class project.

Evert said, “What I’ve learned the past year gets me caught up with leading-edge technology for the future.” That knowledge, he said, will serve him well as an area agribusiness employee and on the family farm.

Lambrecht said the planter has been used to plant corn in a test plot on the Northeast Community College Farm, with students involved. The research included a focus on downforce, which is what pushes the planter’s row units into the soil.

“Too much downforce will cause soil compaction around the seed trench, making it hard for the seeds’ roots to grow and properly develop, resulting in less nutrient and water uptake and, ultimately, less yield,” Lambrecht said.

“Too little downforce, and we will run the risk of planting the seed too shallow, resulting in uneven plant emergence, which is critical for optimum yield,” he said. “Our goal is to make every seed sprout out of the ground at the same time.”

He said the value of the Precision Agriculture Hardware class includes demonstrating precision agriculture concepts through hands-on work.

Lambrecht, who graduated from Northeast Community College with an associate’s degree in agronomy, went on to earn a bachelor of technology in agriculture degree from Northwest Missouri State University. Then, while working at a seed dealership, Lambrecht said he learned precision agriculture concepts from the ground up through hands-on real-life experiences and training.

Funding for the$23 million project is currently being solicited to enhance and expand the agriculture facilities at Northeast Community College. In addition to the College’s commitment of $10 million, Northeast is seeking at least $13 million in private funds to begin the initial phase of construction, which includes a new farm site with a farm office and storage, a large animal handling facility and other farm structures for livestock operations, and a new veterinary technology clinic and classrooms. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck Pohlman Ag Complex on East Benjamin Avenue.

For more information, contact Northeast Community College Associate Vice President of Development and External Affairs Dr. Tracy Kruse, tracyk@northeast.edu, 402-844-7056. Online donations can be made through the website agwaternexus.com. Checks can be mailed to: Nexus Campaign, Northeast Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 469, Norfolk, NE 68702-0469.

Photo Cutline – Planter

Northeast Community College students study directions on how to mount a single-row modular unit while other students construct a four-row planter during the lab portion of their Precision Agriculture Hardware class. (Courtesy Northeast Community College)