by Matt Hagny

We’ve been waiting decades for Deere to come out with improvements to their 90-series no-till drill openers. Now that it’s finally happened, it’s mostly a yawn—almost everything has already been surpassed in aftermarket products. For instance, Deere is very proud of their new seed-bounce flap that’s triangular on the end to fit the furrow better, and also a bit thicker. But this style seed flap is entirely obsolete—our Ninja flap, with its flexible and forward-bending features, will handily outperform anything made from semi-rigid plastic, and our Ninja will never break, bend, and appears to last indefinitely (we still don’t know of anyone who’s worn out a set).

Deere makes a big deal about their new firming wheel—but it’s still a rubber-tire wheel, essentially identical to the old Needham V8 (his V8s are now urethane—but not designed nearly as well as our DuraLoks). So, again, Deere’s latest-and-greatest is already obsolete. Note that this ‘upgrade’ of Deere’s still doesn’t solve the problem of the rubber tire pulling out of the rim, among other things.

Same goes for the Pro-series’ serrated or notched closing wheel. It’s still tremendously heavy, and thick, so it’s terribly inferior to the best spoked closing wheels on the market, such as our Thompson wheels. Not only does it do too much packing of the soil above the seed, and fills up with mud, but also bounces a lot more than closing wheels that positively engage the soil (i.e., penetrate more because of thinner spokes). Why Deere went with this inferior design is probably mostly due to cost—those cast wheels are very cheap to manufacture. And also they’re probably still compromising the design for no-till by trying to make it also work decent in tilled seedbeds.

Deere probably did make a significant improvement by going to a new style of bushings (fiber-wound) and seals for the closing arm pivot—these look eerily similar to what Aricks of Australia has engineered (Exapta is the exclusive distributor for these in North America). We shall see if the quality is as good as Aricks’.

One item that might be a substantial improvement is the Pro-series seed boot, which is dramatically narrower than the 90-series boot. It certainly stays in the shadow of the blade much better (i.e., doesn’t bulldoze the sidewall) which will actually let it go down in the furrow if need be (depending on adjustment). However, they accomplished this by narrowing up the exit channel drastically—this might not matter for wheat, but looks almost certain to cause problems for garbanzos or oats. Should the Pro-series boot prove to be superior, it retrofits onto 60 & 90-series openers.

So before you get too excited and think that a Pro-series drill is a must-have, consider that most of the Deere upgrades are already surpassed in the aftermarket sector. In most cases, you’d be better off rebuilding your current drill (or other used drill) with premium aftermarket upgrades rather than trading ‘up’ to a Pro-series. Or if you do trade, opt out of the OEM closing wheels and firming wheels—might as well go with the best available, which is aftermarket.

And if you’re serious about getting better performance out of this type of opener, you’re still missing out if you don’t have our UniForce hydraulic downforce. Getting rid of the springs on these swing-arm type of openers is vastly more advantageous than getting rid of springs on parallel-link openers. Going to UniForce is a much better use of dollars than ‘upgrading’ to a Pro-series drill—and I’d be saying this even if it wasn’t our product. Using a ram instead of a spring has been what these openers have needed all along.