Off-the-shelf technology helps farmers customize their planters While some farmers buy their planters right off the dealer's lot, others find the planters of their dreams on their dealers' shelves. They piece their units together rather than buy one fresh from the factory.

After he attended a dealer seminar last winter, Maynard, MN, farmer Chuck Hinderks decided he wanted to build a different planter with some of the new technology he'd seen at the meeting. He shopped his dealer's shelves for a Wil-Rich toolbar, new Case IH ASM planter units and a bunch of other parts. When he was done, he had a 24-row, 22" planter that he could use for sugar beets, corn and soybeans.

The new planter actually was the third that Hinderks has built. "We were one of the first farms around here to switch to 22" corn in the mid-to-late 70's," Hinderks says. That's the row spacing commonly used for sugar beets.

"We did it for the simple fact that we wanted to eliminate extra tractors and equipment," he says. "That convenience factor was great. And we didn't realize we'd get a 7-10% yield increase with the narrower rows."

The main reason Hinderks wanted the new planter was the Case IH ASM planter units. "They've got larger seed disks that allow them to turn more slowly. And I really liked the way they singulated seed," he says. "Sugar beet seed is very small and very expensive. So you don't want any doubles and you don't want any skips. The Case IH ASM units plant all sizes of seed and the vacuum system is very forgiving."

The ASM planter units were available through Case IH dealers in 2000. Some planters with the units were sold in the South and in Nebraska, according to Norm Larson, manager of the Planter Product Management Innovation Group for Case IH.

"We're still testing different planter configurations for the Midwest," he says. "In 2001 we will be introducing additional configurations to round out the 1200 series line of planters. Farmers interested in the ASM units will be able to buy them from Case IH dealers again this year."

An ASM, or Advanced Seed Meter, unit features a large-diameter seed disc that travels at lower rpms, according to Larson. "The disk holds seed to a flat hole rather than a seed pocket, which eliminates inconsistency in seed drop," he says. "We have found that farmers can plant virtually all sizes of field corn with one disc."

Hinderks was impressed with the results. "We had the best plant emergence we've ever had. But we also had some of the best soil conditions. I can't give all the credit to the planter, but it worked out really well," he says.

"With this planter, I've only got three seed plates, one each for corn, soybeans and sugar beets," he says. "With other planters I've had, I had to have a different plate for each different-size seed."

Hinderks chose a pull-type toolbar for his new planter, rather than the semi-mounted units he had used before. "With this one, I can fill the boxes and still fold the planter without worrying about the stability," he says. "And I can service the planter while it's folded. Another thing I like about the pull-type planter is now I can see the leading edge of each planter unit. You can't do that with a semi-mounted unit."

A pto-powered hydraulic pump mounted on the planter's tongue powers the vacuum units on Hinderks' planter. He uses the tractor hydraulics for the other planter controls. "We also ran hydraulic lines to the back of the toolbar. I've got a hydraulic motor on the auger of my seed tender. I can walk across the back of the planter and fill the boxes in no time."

Efficiency and technology were the motivators for Chad Taatjes, Raymond, MN, to have a new planter custom-built last winter. Like Hinderks, he uses ASM planter units on a Wil-rich bar. But he uses hydraulic motors to control seed population rather than a ground-driven unit.

"We had been using two 12-row planters and we wanted to eliminate a tractor and a driver," says Taatjes, who farms with his father, mother and brother. "So we switched to one 24-row, 22" planter. We'll use it on all of our sugar beets and soybeans, and some of the corn."

Taatjes chose a pull-type toolbar so he could plant with a 150-hp tractor. He also likes the fact that it pivots in the center. "It really operates like two 12-row planters," he says. "That takes a lot of stress off the equipment and keeps the planter from sometimes running in the dirt in uneven fields."

A Big John monitor controls seed population through four hydraulic motors on Taatjes' planter. "We can set up to five different populations in the monitor before we plant and then switch them on the go," he says. "We have to change populations on all four 6-row sections, but we can turn each motor off individually when we need to for point rows.

"We also like to use that feature to leave a blank spot at our tile inlets," Taatjes says. "That way we don't chew them up with the corn head." A pto pump mounted on the tractor provides hydraulic power to the planter's two vacuum fans.

After one season in the field, Taatjes likes the job his new ASM planter units accomplish. "I usually don't try something that's brand new. I like to wait until it has been around for two or three years," he says. "But I really like the planting accuracy you get with the big seed discs and big fans on the ASM units. We're really pleased."

Taatjes added Yetter residue wheels in front of the planter to create a clean path for the planter units. "With our old planter, we had spots where the seed didn't germinate when we planted into cornstalks," he says. "These units clean clumps and roots away."