Although he probably wouldn't admit it, Greg Kreikemeier's custom-built planter is almost a work of art. Originally built in 2002 and revamped the last two years, the 60-ft. wide, 36-row × 20-in. planter is absolutely one-of-a-kind.

“When I first built this planter I designed it to pull the 140-bu. seed bin with caster wheels on the rear of the planter and the fertilizer tank on the tongue,” says the West Point, NE, grower, who farms 3,500 acres and custom farms 500 more. “But going down the road we always had so much tongue load and had to travel under 25% capacity. And in the field the load was always to the rear of the planter and the center row units were hard to reach. That's when I came up with the idea of mounting it on top of the planter on a rolling carriage.”

So in January 2006 he started making modifications. He built an 8-ft.-long rolling track and mounted the seed bin and 750-gal. fertilizer tank on top. When he's planting, the bin and tank are in the forward position, in front of the 36 Case IH 1200 row units.

THE BEAUTY OF this change is that now the weight is where it needs to be in the field and on the road.

When he wants to fill the seed bin and fertilizer tank, he simply rolls the bin 8 ft. back to the rear of the planter, then backs up to the seed tender. And from the cab or rear of the planter, he can use the fore and aft controls to adjust the distance from the tendering truck. It also rolls back for road transport.

“It's so handy and easy to fill the seed bin now, and it's easy to service the planter when there isn't anything over the row units,” he says.“I made the rolling carriage out of 4 × 6 × ⅜-in. tube and used the spindles and hubs from the old wheel lifts. Then I used two 4-ft. hydraulic cylinders I already had to move it on the track; and it's worked out well.”

In January 2008 he also added pneumatic down pressure air bags to the row units. Today, he says, you can get them as factory options.

In January 2006 he made a radical change in the wheel lift method, and built what he calls a Bauer-type lift system. But he took it a step further.

“I went to walking tandems with 30,000-lb. truck spindles and aircraft tires so I can travel down the road with the planter full,” he says. “The earlier built 80-90-ft. planters, in my opinion, weren't heavy enough for loaded road transport. I didn't want that problem.”

When it comes to the 60-ft. Friesen toolbar, Kreikemeier's made plenty of changes, too. Originally, all the hydraulic hoses ran through the bar, but he took them out and changed to ½-in. steel pipe, mounted on top of the toolbar with short hoses finishing the connection.

“When the hoses ran inside and rubbed or leaked, you didn't see it until the toolbar tube was half full of oil or running out the end. Then you had nothing but a mess,” he says.

In addition, he sealed the tool-bar to be airtight and runs vacuum through it to provide vacuum to the row units. This removed clutter from the toolbar and made room for other components. “Before cleaning up the toolbar, you should have seen the pile of hoses we had,” he says.

Also, he mounted wet booms with spray nozzles — hydraulically controlled — that broadcast herbicide. When he's refilling the planter or working on row units, the booms flip up and out of the way.

LAST YEAR HE moved to implement guidance with a Trimble RTK GPS system, so he could come back in with a 60-ft. sidedressing rig. “I knew there was drift from the tractor to the planter, but I didn't realize how much. I thought about 8-10 in., but it's a lot closer to 15-30 in. I never dreamed a planter would move that much,” he explains. “In addition to the sidedressing options, the planter now performs better with implement guidance and I see less stress on the Tru-Vee opener bearings. We're no longer relying on them (opener bearings) to hold on hillsides.”

Over the winter Kreikemeier plans to tweak a few more things before he pulls into the field this spring.

“The lift hitch is going to get retired after 16 years of service to provide easier and faster hooks and unhooks. I'm going to build a lift system incorporated into the front of the planter hitch, and that's where I'll mount the hydraulic tank and cooling fan for the vacuum pumps. The herbicide and fertilizer pumps will remain on the tractor for other operations,” he says. “I'm planning to do something with the residue managers, too. Right now we have single-wheel managers and I might convert them over to doubles.” Thirty percent of his acreage is no-till.

During the past year Kreikemeier says he's put about $30,000 into the planter including implement guidance, Rawson hydraulic drives, Ag Leader planter controls and five-section liquid controls. But he's nearly finished.

“I have minimal changes to make now and overall I'm happy with it. I especially like the moveable track for the seed bin. I'm not aware of another planter out there that has that feature,” he says.