Like many other southern Corn Belt growers, Stan Miller added wheat to his corn-soybean rotation. What he didn't add was the expense of a second planting machine.
Miller bought and modified a planter that plants corn, soybeans - and wheat.
"We hadn't planted wheat since 1985," says Miller, who farms near Annapolis, IL. "In fact, we got this planter so we could plant some wheat without having to use two pieces of equipment - a planter and a drill."
His White 6800 Series central-fill planter came with 24 row units to plant 10" rows of soybeans and wheat, fifteen 15" rows of soybeans, or eight rows of 30" corn.
"I made a lot of modifications," says Miller. "The planter had eight units on the front bar and 16 on the back bar. So to get the spacings we wanted, we moved all units to the back bar. Then we made some structural changes to support the load."
It now plants corn in 19" rows, and soybeans and wheat in 9.5" rows.
Miller uses 25 row units to plant soybeans and wheat, and has arranged a pull-chain to shut off the units he doesn't need for corn. He can move from field to field - and crop to crop - without having to unhook gangs or change splitter attachments.
"It works quick and easy," he adds.
He also mounted li quid fertilizer tanks in front of the central-fill hopper so he can apply a 10-34-0 blend in the rows on top of the seed as he plants corn.
With an eye on yields and balanced fertility, Miller also broadcasts dry fertilizer in the fall on ground going to corn. He limes as necessary. "We soil-test what goes to corn every year," he says.
The central-fill hopper holds 60 cu ft of seed. Along with the liquid fertilizer tanks, Miller says, the hopper provides a lot of stability to handle a variety of no-till field conditions.
"It plants at a nice uniform depth," he states.
A strong believer in no-till, Miller often uses the planter in fall to put in a wheat cover crop to help build humus and loosen the soil for the following year's corn.
He says that timing his weed control program for no-till depends mostly on field conditions. "We sometimes spray ahead of planting, but normally we treat for weeds after we plant," he adds. "We also use a burndown when we have to."
With wheat as a winter cover crop and early summer cash crop, plus doublecrop soybeans, his "triple-threat planter" gets a good workout. A typical planting year runs something like this:
* Corn, 700 acres, all no-till, 19" rows.
* Soybeans, 350 acres in spring, 9.5" rows.
* Soybeans, 350 acres in summer, as doublecrop following wheat, 9.5" rows.
* Wheat, 350 acres in fall for harvest the next June, 9.5" rows.
* Wheat, as a cover crop in fall to loosen soil and build humus, 9.5" rows.
In addition to reduced machinery costs, Miller has the flexibility to add more wheat to his operation, along with additional soybeans as a doublecrop.
Other benefits include increased plant populations and better plant spacings for higher yields. He hasn't run any side-by-side yield checks because he sold his older machines. But he believes yields have improved, especially in soybeans.
He harvests all three crops with a Gleaner R72 combine and uses a 12-row, 19" header for the narrow-row corn. The combine has an Ag Leader yield monitor for tracking yields.
This season, Miller plans to cut back on wheat and go with more corn and beans.
With his special planter, he now has the flexibility to plant as much, or as little, of any of these crops as he wants.
Miller's local dealer, Newton Implement, Inc., in Newton, IL, worked closely with him to set up the row configurations for the three crops.
The planter also comes from the factory with an advanced hydraulic seed drive that lets the operator manually adjust plant populations on-the-go using a digital monitor in the tractor cab. A radar-sensing unit continually monitors ground speed and sends information to the microprocessor located in the monitor.
According to the manufacturer, Miller's 6824 planter is GPS-ready. It can be converted from its present manual variable-rate mode to GPS-coordinated variable-rate seeding and then tied to a predetermined field plan.
"For White planters, we're combining the functions of seed monitoring and variable-rate control into one unit to eliminate the mass of monitors and cab clutter," says Doug Belshe, AGCO Precision Farming Group engineer.
Belshe says that GPS-driven variable-rate seeding is planned for selected White planters during 1999, including the model Miller has. They will be compatible with the FieldStar precision farming system in Gleaner and Massey-Ferguson combines.