The advantage of being handy in the shop is that if a piece of equipment doesn't quite suit your needs you can simply change it.

That's exactly what Doug Garner and his son Mike of Le Claire, IA, have done with their planter.

Doug Garner started out farming with central seed system planters in the '60s and liked them. A few years ago he bought a Kinze system with individual planter boxes, but he wasn't happy with filling and emptying individual seed boxes on his 16/31-row planter. Garner also found working with individual seed boxes didn't work well with his bulk seed system.

But rather than investing in a new planter, he decided to work with his son Mike to add a central seed system to the existing unit.

“We liked the Kinze planter frame for transport as well as ease of use in the field,” says Garner. “Most planters with a front-folding system have a three-point hitch and our tractor is set up for a drawbar hitch. We either needed to spend more on a three-point hitch or find a way to use the Kinze planter.”

The father/son duo started out with a standard Kinze twin-line planter, adding an air distribution manifold from Progressive and seed boxes from Flexicoil. They built the central seed system boxes and the air delivery system themselves. The boxes were built from scratch from Doug's design, using 14-gauge steel.

Garner estimates that it took about three weeks to build the planter from concept to finish, and was happy with how the planter performed in the field this past year.

“We can fill the planter with seed in 10 minutes and can plant 90 acres of soybeans without stopping,” says Garner. He notes that he could plant 275 acres of corn without refilling.

Alterations to the planter for this season will be minor. He did have some challenges with hoses plugging up, particularly with soybeans. This winter he'll split the hoses to the 16-row units for corn and 31 for soybeans differently, feeding the two back rows with one Y joint and the two front rows with another, rather than splitting them between a back and front row.

He's also toying with changing from finger planting units to a Case IH or John Deere system, which would speed up corn planting, but he's not sure it would pay.

He estimates that a new planter with an air system retails for about $125,000. But buying a new planter wouldn't have solved the issue of the incompatible hitch systems.

“We saw no reason to buy a new planter when we liked our system so well,” he says, adding that they spent less than $10,000 to modify their existing system.

“We put a lot of hours into it, but my time is cheap in January and February,” Garner adds.