Review: Monosem NG Plus 4 planter

By: Brent Lilley

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The Monosem from the rear The Monosem NG Plus 4’s 6m planter stack folds to allow a transport width of 3m The Monosem from the rear
This 6m machine was configured for fodder beet This 6m machine was configured for fodder beet This 6m machine was configured for fodder beet
The Monosem NG Plus side on Two large discs in a ‘V’ formation open a furrow for the seed, and large gauge wheels ensure an accurate planting depth The Monosem NG Plus side on
The additional lift rams : Additional lift rams ensure the boxes are lifted clear when the machine is folded The additional lift rams
The Planters from the rear Wide firm flex press wheels are used to better consolidate soil around the seed The Planters from the rear
The Monosem NG plus working a field Row markers are used on the outside pass, then the GPS auto steer is used The Monosem NG plus working a field

We check out the Monosem NG Plus 4 precision planter. Our verdict? An exceptional machine that will get the crop into the ground accurately


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It’s fair to say the popularity of fodder beet has grown exponentially in recent years as farmers realise its potential to economically increase the amount of dry matter grown per hectare, especially in colder areas.

One take-home message I’ve heard from farmers growing the crop is that the potential yield comes down to the effort you put in. This starts when the crop is planted, and so it makes sense to use an accurate precision planter.

With this in mind, I recently travelled to New Zealand’s South Canterbury region to see a Monosem precision planter in action.

Stuart McIntosh owns Pineline Contracting, which currently runs two 6m Monosem planters on Case IH tractors and plants around 2000ha of fodder beet every year as well as some maize.

Stuart has been planting fodder for eight years now and has owned several Monosem planters, upgrading as the area planted increased and newer technology became available.

The day I caught up with Stuart, both planters were working on the same property, planting fodder beet at 80,000 seeds per hectare into ground that had been in winter feed. The soil was a little cloddy after having cows on it over winter, but this was a good test to see how well the machine could handle less-than-ideal conditions.  

The Monosem can plant fodder beet at 80,000 seeds per hectare
The Monosem was planting fodder beet at 80,000 seeds per hectare into ground that had been in winter feed

 

Design

A heavy box section frame is the backbone of the Monosem and carries all the key components. Like most planters, these are usually customised for the crops being planted. This machine was set up for planting fodder beet with 12 rows over the 6m working width, giving a 500mm inter-row spacing.

To get through gateways and for transport, the machine stack-folds. This means the three boxes on each side lift vertically and then stack on top of the middle six boxes. While this is great, as it can be folded with seed in the boxes, it does mean the transport height is quite high.

Hydraulic row markers on either side are used to scribe a mark for the next run. Although, in this instance, these were redundant, as the Case IH on the front was running Greenstar GPS for accuracy and automatic row shut-off (but more about that later).

A large turbofan sits at the front against the headstock of the machine. This effectively draws air in through each seed unit, creating a vacuum to pick up and plant individual seeds. The air is exhausted low but in a way that minimises the amount of extra dust created.         

 

Seed placement

Each metering unit is mounted to the main frame on a parallel linkage. This allows the units to move up and down individually to follow the contour of the ground while maintaining the same parallel angle of attack to soil surface.

Incorporated into the linkage are two springs and a single shock absorber (Monoshox – patented), which maintain a constant amount of down pressure, keeping the double disc openers the same depth in the ground regardless of changing soil conditions.

Overall, this linkage set-up creates a stable platform for the seeding unit and minimises any bounce. Up front of the seeding unit are winged clod removers, which push clods or stones to the side of the planting line to ensure a smooth level surface to plant into. These are easily adjustable without tools into 12 positions.

Two large 380mm diameter discs mounted in a ‘V’ arrangement open a furrow to plant the seed into. Outside the discs are large oversize gauge wheels on either side that maintain an accurate seed depth. These are easily adjusted with a screw handle at the rear, which changes the height of the gauge wheels.

An easily seen gauge makes setting simple, while scrapers ensure they stay clean.

Between the discs, an inner shoe finishes the bottom of the furrow and a curved seed chute ensures seed is placed in the furrow without bouncing out. Closing discs following behind gently crumble the edges of the furrow in to cover the seed.

Two press wheels at the rear of the seeding unit are standard. These are in a ‘V’ arrangement to firm soil around the seed.

As an option, the machine I saw was fitted with a farm flex press wheel – a wide soft wheel that puts more pressure on the sides than the centre and which machine owner Stuart believes leaves a better finish in the conditions he operates in.

 

Seed metering

A cast-aluminium housing contains the metering disc on each seed unit, ensuring it remains accurate despite temperature changes. A large transparent hatch on the side of the housing is a great way to visually check everything is working correctly and single seeds are being picked up.

The seeding discs can easily be changed to suit the crop being sown. The 1.5mm thick stainless steel disc has a series of holes around the circumference. The vacuum created on one side makes sure a single seed is picked and then dropped off into the seed chute as the disc turns.

A Teflon gasket is used for longevity and creates a good seal around the edge of the disc to maintain the vacuum. An adjustable brass scraper is easily set to knock any doubles off before the seed drops. Individual electronic row clutches for each seed unit are located on the main frame of the planter.

The drive and ground speed come from four wheels across the width of the machine. Drive from the row clutch to the seed metering unit is via a chain drive, which is self-tensioning and so allows the seed unit to move with the ground contour. This is a good system, although drive chains and the amount of dust planters sometimes work in do raise a couple of questions.

Seed is held in a 52-litre toughened plastic hopper above the metering unit with a sturdy lid. This is easily cleaned out with a trapdoor in the housing and the design makes sure only a minimal amount of seed is actually held in the housing.      

The screen controls
Technology in the cab for increased accuracy and efficiency

 

Controls

Monosem has a range of monitors available to control the planters, and the machine tested was using a CS-5000 monitor, which is relatively simple and easy to use. A black and white display shows the forward speed, area planted, and planting rate.

Seed-dropped sensors on each box use a magic eye sensor that counts the seed as it drops down the seed chute, and the average rate is displayed on a bar graph, making it easy for the operator to see if there is a problem.

While this control box looks somewhat dated, there’s an option for a colour-touchscreen ISOBUS monitor, which displays and controls the machine in a much more user-friendly way.

While it may seem a little strange that a Monosem planter on a Case IH tractor is being run by a John Deere Greenstar GPS system, it does make a little more sense when you realise that Monosem is owned by John Deere and these two systems work well together.

The Greenstar setup is used to auto steer the Case IH and, more impressively, turns each seeding unit on and off individually via the electromagnetic row clutches as required. This prevents any overlap or misses that can lead to some significant savings on seed costs depending on the shape of the paddock.    

The stainless metering disc picks up individual seeds for precise planting
The stainless metering disc picks up individual seeds for precise planting

 

The bottom line

Overall, this is an exceptional planter that will get the crop into the ground accurately, saving input costs and ensuring the best possible chance for a high yield.

Monosem has been building precision planters for more than 70 years so, as you would expect, it offers an exceptionally well-designed and built planter with impressive accuracy.

The Monosem range of planters can be customised to suit almost any situation.

 

HITS

Parallel linkage setup for excellent contour following

Large gauge wheels for accurate depth control

Well-designed seed metering units for exceptional accuracy

Electronic row clutches with individual GPS shut-off to save seed costs

Clod removers create a level planting line for accurate seeding 

Monoshox for consistent planting depth

Ability to adjust vacuum on individual row units

MISSES

High transport height

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