Maximizing the Performance of Variable Rate Drive (VRD) Planters
SeedStar™ Planters with Variable Rate Drive



Seeds are spaced too close together (overpopulating) when the planter is coming to the end of a pass.

Seeds are spaced too far apart (underpopulating) when starting a new pass.

There is a gap in the field where the planter was stopped and started again. 

Situation or Problem

As the speed of the planter is changed, the VRD system requires a small amount of time to react.  The amount of "ramp up" and "ramp down" time built into the system ensures that the drives will always turn smoothly.  However, if the speed of the planter is changed too abruptly, spacing of the seed can be affected.


The SeedStar™ Variable Rate Drive (VRD) system uses the tractor's radar speed signal to turn the seed meters at whatever speed is necessary to deliver the plant population selected by the operator.  Because the VRD system is an electronically controlled hydraulic drive, it takes a small amount of time for the drives on the planter to speed up or slow down to match the tractor's ground speed.  Following a few simple steps when starting and stopping, allowing the drives on the planter as much time to react as possible, will result in the best seed spacing performance.

Solution Steps

Before each planting season, see your John Deere dealer and visit to make sure your GreenStar™ Display and SeedStar Generation II Controller software is updated to the latest version.  This will make sure you get all of the latest features and the full benefit of ongoing improvements to the software applications.

Minimizing overpopulation or underpopulation on the ends of a pass:

  • Make sure the radar speed and the tractor wheel speed are both calibrated and match each other as close as possible.  At low speeds, the radar speed signal can become unstable and it is normal for the VRD system to automatically switch to tractor wheel speed as the speed source.  For best results, radar speed and tractor wheel speed should be calibrated in the field, with the planter in the ground.
  • When starting a row or pass from a stop, make sure to use the Quick Start function.  On planters with Seedstar Generation II, make sure the Quick Start is set to the "Auto" mode.  Planters with Seedstar Generation I, Quick Start should be set to "Enabled."  Note that Quick Start will time out if the planter is not moved within 6 seconds after lowering.  Refer to your Seedstar Operator's Manual for more specific information. 
  • When approaching the end of a pass, use the tractor transmission to gear down several gears well before needing to raise the planter.  Reducing the engine throttle is not recommended as this may may allow the tractor to slow down faster than the VRD system can react.
  • Whenever possible, do not drive to the end of a pass and bring the planter to a sudden stop.  The drives are not designed to stop instantly and seeds can be spaced too close together depending on how abruptly the tractor and planter stop.  Instead, gear down well before the headlands and raise the planter while still travelling forward at 2 mph or greater.
  • When starting a new pass, it is best not to come to a complete stop before lowering the planter to the ground.  Lowering the planter while moving 2 mph or greater disables Quick Start and ensures that the VRD system is commanded by the tractor's actual speed.

Avoiding skips or gaps when stopping and starting the planter:

  • When stopping in the middle of a row or pass with a vacuum planter, do not turn the vacuum fan(s) off as this will empty the seed disk of seed and result in a large gap (unless performing one of the following).
  • If the vacuum blowers have been shut off, start the vacuum blowers and use the "Rotate Seed Meters" function to fill the seed disks.  "Rotate Seed Meters" became available 1.01L software version of Seedstar Generation II.  This software is available from your John Deere dealer and will upgrade any Seedstar Generation II planter.  "Rotate Seed Meters" can be added to the RUN page by pressing SETUP - Planter - RUN Pages on the monitor.  "Rotate Seed Meters" is not available for Seedstar Generation I planters.
  • For Seedstar Generation I planters when the vacuum has been shut off;  Start the vacuum blowers, lower the planter, and drive forward approximately 10 to 15 feet to fill the meters with seed.  Raise the planter, back up 10 to 15 feet, and lower the planter to begin planting.  Another method is to lower the planter 10 to 15 feet before expecting the first seed.
  • When starting from a stop, make sure to use the Quick Start function.  On Seedstar Generation II planters, make sure Quick Start is set to "Auto."  For Generation I planters, ensure Quick Start is "Enabled."  Note that Quick Start will time out if the planter is not moved within 6 seconds after lowering.  Refer to your Seedstar Operator's Manual for more specific information.
  • When starting from a stop, always begin in a lower gear and gear up to reach planting speed.  Beginning in the gear used to achieve your planting speed and releasing the clutch can result in the tractor accelerating too fast and spacing the seeds too far apart.

Affected Equipment
All Variable Rate Drive Planters   

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