Four years ago Robert Dirksen and neighbor Marlin Tebben scratched their heads trying to figure out a way to plant faster without shelling out the money to buy a newfangled planter. It didn't take them long to flesh out a solution to their dilemma.

That answer was to build their own prototype 57-ft. toolbar and bolt three existing planters together.

“We wanted to be able to plant more and didn't have enough people to do the work,” says Dirksen, Clara City, MN, who already owned two 1998 White Model 6700 12-row planters set on 22-in. rows. He then picked up another 1997 White 6700 unit to give him a full 36-row planter.

The shop-built 66-ft. planter spells efficiency and less labor, Dirksen says. Before, it took two men and two tractors to keep each planter running. Even so, they still didn't have the capacity they have now with the third planter they've attached. They now plant 30-40 acres an hour.

They built their 57-ft. toolbar from 7-in. × 7-in. × 3/16-in. stock steel tubing. On the hinge points where the outer planters swing forward for transport, they built an 11-ft. long overhead arm that flexes and keeps all the units running evenly at 22-in. row spacings. That arm or beam, made from 5-in. × 7-in. × 3/16-in. steel tubing, uses a three-point hitch to attach the outer wing planter units.

Despite uneven field terrain, Dirksen says the overhead arm flexes enough to keep the three planter units at a constant 22 in. apart. The middle planter unit is set back 2½ ft. from the main toolbar.

Originally, the planters were mounted to the tractor with a three-point hitch. The new drawbar hitch telescopes and is made from 7-in. × 7-in. × ⅜-in. tubing, and it “works very well,” Dirksen says.

For transport, hydraulics raise the toolbar and the two outer planter wings swing inward and forward. At the same time, the hitch telescopes out from 17 ft. in planting mode to 26 ft. in transport mode.

Hydraulics for the planters are all plumbed together from the existing units. Dirksen says there are two main hydraulic units, one to raise and lower the transport wheels, and the other to run the air vacuum for the ground-driven planter units.

“Although we haven't done it yet, we'd like to build this bar for other farmers, too,” says Dirksen. “We can build this for just about any planter out there. We just happened to have Whites.”

A big feature Dirksen likes about this planter is its versatility. For example, he says, “We can unhook one planter section and simply hook it up to the three-point hitch on the tractor if we need to plant narrower or in low, wet spots.”

The only regret he has with the design is that it only accommodates 36 rows. “We should have gone to 48 rows,” he says, “But I've been on 22-in. rows since 1980 and the 36-row design fits our operation.”

Dirksen says the planter, which took about a year to build, works well on his 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, beets and edible beans. He adds that the unit could also work with three eight-row planters set on 30-in. rows for a 24-row planter.

Cost for materials, such as steel, hoses, electronic valves and parts, ran about $22,000, not including labor. “If you've got your own planter units, that's cheap,” he says.

For more information, contact Robert Dirksen at 320-847-2384.

Fold And Go

Planter retrofit helps farmer prep for quick road transport.

Nothing irritated Richard Wurtzberger more in spring than having to go through 25 steps just to get his planter in transport position. But now with a few modifications here and there that ran about $1,000, he folds and goes in about 1½ minutes.

“I like the planter I have and didn't want to buy a new one,” says the Sleepy Eye, MN, grower who plants about 800 acres of corn and soybeans annually. “But it just took too much time to get in and out of the transport mode.” Wurtzberger plants with a 1989 Case IH 900 series trailing planter that comes equipped with four 900-lb. dry fertilizer hoppers.

“Hoses were the big problem,” he says. “So I built and attached a bent arm between the tractor and planter that swings to either side so hoses, with extensions added, and monitor cables, also with extensions, don't have to be removed.”

Both the field and transport hitches were originally designed to move manually, and jacks were required for each hitch. But by putting a 2-in. × 72-in. hydraulic cylinder inside the transport pole and also by installing a 3-in. × 10-in. cylinder outside on the field operation swinging hitch, he was able to move them with the same hydraulic valve that controls the transport wheels on the planter. No jacks are required because both the transport and planter wheels hold the planter up during the position change.

In addition, electric solenoids are used to control the transport wheels and the hitches, and now only one remote is needed.

To head down the road, the planter transport tongue is lifted via the three-point hitch and crossbar. In the field position, the planter is connected using the Case IH Perfect Hitch. That forces a pin to drop when the implement tongue hits a trigger. Markers are locked in the up position by yet another solenoid valve.

Wurtberger says that in order for his modifications to work when changing from transport to planting, the tractor must be turned about 90° to the left, and the planter and transport wheels lowered to act as a jack.

The three-point hitch and crossbar are then lowered, disconnecting the transport pole. Next, he drives the tractor forward to the right at a 45Þ angle, then backs up to attach to the field planting hitch.

“The beauty of this whole thing is that I only need to get off the tractor once to lock the swing arm in either the planting or transport cradle,” he says.
Greg Lamp