Upgrades to your farm don't have to be expensive to be profitable — particularly with soybeans.

When brothers Dave and Larry Diedrich wanted a better soybean planter, they built one for less than $15,000. What started life as a 12-row, 30" Case IH 800 planter was torched and welded until it came out of their Elkton, SD, shop as a 16-row, 22" planter that matches row width with their corn planter.

“We took off the seed modules and built a hitch off the back of the planter so we could tow a Flexicoil air unit,” says Dave Diedrich. “We extended the hitch behind the planter to prevent turning into the cart. We also used a tongue on the cart to minimize the distance it travels on turns.”

Eliminating the weight of the seed modules and cranking up the down pressure on row units to penetrate no-till fields resulted in the planter wings floating out of the ground. To compensate, the brothers added 400 lbs of suitcase weights to each planter wing.

Before building the planter, the Diedrichs used a no-till drill for soybeans. “We wanted to switch to a planter because we were really disappointed in the soybean stands we were getting,” says Diedrich, about the drill. “We were losing 20-25% of the seed we planted. With the planter, we could cut our planted population by that amount and end up with the same stand.”

The Diedrichs wanted the air unit for more than just its 110-bu capacity. With twin seed tanks, it gives the ability to plant different varieties and switch on the go.

“We based the idea on research data we generated in our own fields,” says Diedrich. “We've got one 110-acre field with severe iron chlorosis problems. Using the split-planter technique, we put an iron chlorosis-resistant variety on one side of the 30' drill we used to use, and a high yielding, non-resistant variety on the other.

“As we planted, we ended up with 30'-strips of each variety that we could harvest with our 30' head,” Diedrich says. “We took the data from our yield monitor and laid it over a topographic map. It was as pretty as a picture and showed we averaged 1½-2 bu/acre more with the resistant variety on the high pH soils. In some spots it was as much as 4 bu/acre.”

Unless you've got pH extremes in your field, you likely won't see that much difference, believes Diedrich. “That's the only field where it really works that well,” he says.

He uses his planter's ability to switch varieties on the go for more than just iron chlorosis, however. “We've used it in fields where phytophthora has been a problem, too. But, we've had dry years so it hasn't had much effect. It's always going to be that risk/reward situation. You also could use the two-variety system where white mold and SCN are problems.”

In addition to variety studies, Diedrich has also looked at population, insecticide use with different varieties and nitrogen studies.