The logic of an 80'-wide planter is simple, really. “The key is to go from one field to another as fast as I can and do it right,” says Garner, IA, farmer Dan Wood.

Many farmers don't see their planters as risk management tools and would view the list price of $58,500, and size, as too indulgent.

But Woods says the eighty feet of efficiency proved itself in reducing planting risks and verifying income potential. “Last spring, we planted for 3½ days and then couldn't plant again until 15 days later,” Wood says. “That early planted corn averaged 20 bu more per acre. If you can plant 600 acres a day, that's an increase of roughly $24,000/day if you get corn planted on time.”

Before building his 32-row, 30” planter, Wood used a 24-row, 30” unit. “As we added acres, we either needed to add a second planter, drive faster or get a bigger planter,” he says. “This is the most efficient way for us to plant more acres per hour without increasing our planting speed,” says Wood, who plants corn and beans at 6-6½ mph.

An 80' bar is logical for the farmer who uses 16-row equipment and needs to get bigger, says Vaughn Bauer, Bauer Manufacturing, Inc., Paton, IA. He has been building front-fold 80' bars with telescoping tongues since 1996, and has so far sold five to farmers across the Corn Belt. He also has plans for a 90' unit.

“The guys set up with 16-row, 30” equipment are going to drive the 80' market. It lets them plant with one planter instead of two,” he says. “Guys with 12-row units are going to look at the 60' or 90' bars.”

Bauer's 80' bar, weighing in at roughly 15,000 lbs and available in both 3- and 5-section models, can be folded from field to road position in less than two minutes using cab-mounted hydraulic controls. “The 3-section bar has a 20' center with two 30' wings,” he says. “On the 5-section bars, we split the 30' wings into 15' units. We build the bars so they flex with the field.”

The economy of an 80' bar convinced Mountain Lake, MN, farmer Verlyn Fast to buy a Bauer-built bar as well. “We were using two, 16-row, 30” planters and multiples of equipment,” he says. “It was just more economical to go to an 80' bar. We had kept one tractor mainly for planting and couldn't justify keeping it for the number of hours we put on each year. And, it's a lot easier to keep one planter running than two.”

The decision actually changed Fast's whole farm operation. “We've been farming on ridges, but we weren't convinced that a guidance system would work on an 80' planter. We didn't want to spend $10,000 to find out, so we went to conventional planting.”

Fast likes the system so much he intends to switch to 20” rows, eliminate his cultivator and size all his equipment to 80', including a harrow he uses for incorporating herbicides. “We want to have controlled traffic patterns to control compaction,” he says.

Fast looked for simplicity when he built his 32-row, 30” planter. “We went with JD finger units rather than vacuum planter units to eliminate hoses and hydraulics,” he says. “We chose a Kinze monitor that runs all the rows with just three wires. And, we used two Rawson hydraulic drives that split the planter into 40' sections.”

Fast lost yield where he overlapped, so next year he'll change it so he can shut off planter units in 20' sections.

With 3-bu seed boxes, it takes 2 pallets (96 bags) of seed corn to fill Fast's planter. “We mounted four induction cones on a fifth-wheel trailer so we can dump seed into the cones and blow it into the boxes,” he says. Once filled, the planter is good for 232 acres before it needs to be filled again.

While the theory is that you can plant slower with a bigger planter, it doesn't always work that way. “When it gets late, we start planting close to 6 mph,” he says. “We can plant at least 40 acres in an hour.”

There's really no difference between a 32-row planter and a 4-row planter from a management viewpoint, according to Wood. He uses a brush auger to fill his planter from a bulk bin. “It takes about 10-15 minutes to fill the boxes,” he says.

Interest in 80' and bigger bars is growing in west-central Minnesota, says Erv Dye, sales representative for RDO Equipment in Breckenridge. “In our area, the 36-row, 20” planter is going to be really popular and replace 24-row, 30” models,” he says. “That probably represents 30-40% of the market.”

However, Dye admits that it takes a sizeable investment to go to 80' of planting in one pass — a commitment that only starts with the bar. “On a 90' bar with planter units set on 20”, you need an 18-row corn head to match up. Right now nobody makes one,” he says. “That's one of the holdups.”

But Dye has already priced 80' and 90' bars to customers for the 2002 season. “As farms get bigger, they look for ways to be more efficient and more productive,” he says. “There may be a line where you pass that factor. If farmers keep getting bigger, however, the equipment will, too.”

To check out Bauer's full line of tool bars, visit www.bauermfg.com.