If there's a way to make any task around the farm more efficient — from planting to harvesting — Louie Nigg from Peever, SD, will find it. He especially gets a charge out of looking at equipment to see if there's a way he can modify and make it more field ready for the 2,500 acres he farms with his dad Lynn.

That's just what he did with his John Deere 1770 NT 16-row, 30-in. planter he bought three years ago. The only fault Nigg had with it was that he wanted a better, more practical way to feed a higher volume of dry fertilizer to the planter units.

“After using an eight-row planter that I had to refill every 25 acres, I knew when I bought a new one that I wanted to be able to pull a cart with starter fertilizer in it,” he says.

So when he bought the new planter, he immediately figured out a way to put his theory into practice and built an air-assist fertilizer delivery system for it.

“I started by attaching a 150-bu. Concord 1502 air cart to the back of the planter to supply the dry fertilizer,” Nigg says. “New, the cart sells for well over $10,000. But I bought a used 1986 model for $1,500. I wasn't sure my idea was going to work so I didn't want to invest too much money right away.” Typically, he uses 100 lbs. of 12-32-18 as a starter, plus zinc.

Then he designed and had two 5-ft.-tall towers built to his specs that are bolted to the toolbar to divert the fertilizer at the planter. Each tower is positioned 10 ft. from the edge of the central-fill seed tank. “I had to design it to fold for road transport so it wouldn't break the hoses,” he says.

DRY FERTILIZER TRAVELS from the air cart through two 5-in. flex hoses — each 22 ft. long — that run from the back of the planter and over the top of the central-fill tank to the front where they connect to each of the towers. Once there, a manifold splits the fertilizer into 1¼-in. hoses that run to each of the 16 planter units. In total, there's 150 ft. of 1¼-in. hose.

It's that simple.

The tower and splitters ran about $2,000 ($1,000 each). The hoses and manifolds cost roughly $500, so total expenses ran $2,500 plus the air cart.

It worked right away, Nigg says, but it took some adjustments to get it to fold right.

“The real beauty of it, though, is now I can go up to 80 acres on corn before I have to refill the fertilizer tank,” he adds. “I used to think 100 acres a day was a good day. Now with the bigger planter, the air cart and GPS, I've done as much as 250 acres in a single day.”

The only thing he says that could make the system better is for it to be bigger. Eventually he'd like to double the size of the air cart from 150 bu. to 300 bu.