A hot buzzword that's been floating around is to “drill down.” It's a term for folks who used to “get down to basics.”
Auburn, IL, farmer Tim Seifert doesn't concern himself with catchy phrases. He prefers to focus on words like “accurate” and “profit.” He knows when it comes to planting, the two terms are nearly synonymous.
So when Case IH brought a prototype drill to his farm a few years ago, he knew he was onto something good. The factory unit was a 30' drill set for 15” rows, but used planter units for better seed placement. Seifert liked the drill so much, he bought it.
But factory specs still didn't provide the accuracy that Seifert was looking for, so he started with some simple modifications. “I changed out the standard gauge wheels and press wheels, and replaced them with narrower ones,” he says. “It gives me better clearance for fields where I have no-till.”
The regular transport tires left tracks in fields where water would collect, so Seifert swapped them for flat-profile turf tires. In addition, the factory seed tubes proved to be flimsy and would kink when he drove through waterways. That caused seed to bunch up and, at times, plug the tube.
Seifert's simple fix was to replace the tubing with two telescoping pieces of PVC pipe. “It works so well that a lot of my neighbors have done the same thing,” he says.
Next, he replaced the ground drive with a Rawson hydraulic unit. “I set the gates to the width of a single seed and controlled population from the cab,” he says.
The final piece to Seifert's drill puzzle was put in place when he bought new metering belts from S.I. Distributing. “Was that ever a blessing. I took off the flutes and replaced them with the dimple rubber belts,” he says. “Now I calibrate the drill once in the spring and I don't have to touch it again all season.”
In its modified form, Seifert has a drill that has “the capacity of a drill and the accuracy of a planter,” he says. “I could plant 15” corn with it if I used small seed.”
When Seifert “drills down” on what's important, he's definitely a “bottom line” kind of guy. “When you plant more accurately, you increase yield and that's net dollars,” he says. “I'm trying to maximize every dollar I spend.”
Planting accuracy saves dollars in the seed bag as well. “I grow seed for two companies and they don't want to provide a lot of extra product to compensate for the way a drill plants,” he says. “I used to have to hold my breath that I would have enough seed to plant the acres I was supposed to. Now they know they can throw on a couple of extra bags and I'll be fine.” Seifert realizes the same seed savings on his own acres, too.
Seifert's attitude for accuracy includes wiring his drill's hydraulic drive unit into the GPS software loaded into the laptop in his tractor cab.
“All our fields are mapped, and I set the population I plant based on soil types,” he says. For example, “Heavy soils get lighter populations; lighter soils get heavier populations. In some of our fields, that means up to seven different prescriptions. It's making us money.”