Planter in-cab display terminology

The planting operation is arguably the most important field operation since it establishes maximum yield potential of a seed when placed in the soil. In terms of planting performance, four factors of focus to maximize yield potential and are at the control of the planter operator are 1) population, 2) uniform spacing, 3) uniform emergence, and 4) planting timing and field capacity. Three of these four important factors, population, seed spacing uniformity, and field capacity (ac/ar) can be directly monitored during the planting operation from the in-cab display.

This and other information is provided by new in-cab displays providing the operator real-time feedback. Precision planter technology can help monitor and ensure population and spacing expectations are being met during field operations. This real-time feedback also provides opportunity to the operator to make timely adjustments or most importantly make sure seed is being placed properly to maximize yield potential. Many planter displays today provide additional meter, planter and tractor parameters that can be valuable feedback to the operator along with data (e.g. as-planted data) for post-planting analyses.

One issue with in-cab planter displays is determining what all this information means and how it can be utilized to its potential. Each planter or in-cab display manufacturer uses different terminology. To help with understanding the information being provided by today’s displays, a group of university and industry professionals are working on a publication that lists the terms and associated definitions so users can better understand all this data being displayed and collected. The first list of terms is currently being reviewed by the group and should be published later this year.

Here are a selected few terms and definitions related to the four factors of attention at planting:

  • Plant population (also referred to as population, planted population or target population): A general term that indicates the target or actual number of seeds planted per acre.
  • Live population (also referred to as emerged population or live stand): A general term indicating the population or number of seeds per acre that emerge. Live population and planted population are used to determine the percent of seeds emerged which is commonly referred to as “Emergence percent.”
  • Singulation: the percentage of seeds properly singulated by a seed meter. The singulation value takes into consideration seed skips and multiples. The higher the singulation value the better and it is typical to have singulation values of 97% or higher for precision planters.
  • Spacing (seed spacing): the distance between two successive seeds in the row. The spacing is measured for an individual row using a seed tube sensor during field operation. Seed spacing is commonly used to evaluate planter performance by the operator as it represents the ability of the meter and delivery system to consistently deliver seed at a preferred spacing to the seed furrow. Variability in seed spacing expressed as standard deviation or Coefficient of Variation (CV) is typically used to monitor planter performance.
  • Seed spacing standard deviation: computed as the variation in spacing between consecutive seeds. This variation can be used to evaluate planter performance. A standard deviation of two inches or less represents an attainable variation in spacing by most planters. But one should remember a standard deviation of two inches is different for varying populations.
  • Plant spacing: the distance between two successive emerged plants in a row. This is typically measured over a known distance to determine final mean plant spacing and evaluate plant spacing uniformity expressed as standard deviation or Coefficient of Variation (CV).
  • Ride quality (also referred to as ride dynamic or good ride): indicates the level of vertical movement (e.g. bouncing) by a row unit. Displayed commonly as a percentage of time when ride quality is sufficient to not impact seed spacing. A 100% good ride (e.g. no vertical movement thereby a smooth operation) represents optimum row unit ride quality and 0% represents the poorest ride quality.
  • Applied down force: the amount of weight applied by the planter row unit and downforce system, either pneumatic or hydraulic, onto the row unit for coulter or pair of disc to achieve right depth and gauge wheel to carry enough load for desired soil compaction during the planter operation in the field.
  • Down force margin: margin represents the amount of extra down force applied to row units, over and above what is required for opener disks to penetrate the soil and achieve full planting depth. The extra down force comes from the weight of the row unit and meter, weight of seed in the seed hoppers, and the down force system.

Once the publication is reviewed, it will be provided online through the Ohio State precision agriculture website,


Dr. John Fulton, Associate Professor, can be reached at 614-292-6625, or This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.


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