Some guys want the best of all worlds. That's what led Atwater, MN, farmer Francis Rosenquist to build a planter that sows seed in narrow rows like his air seeder — and with the same bulk capabilities — but with the accuracy of his planter.
“We use an air seeder for soybeans, peas and wheat,” says Rosenquist. “It plants more soybeans than we really like. That wasn't a big issue when we were using bin-run beans. But with today's technology fees, we save $18/acre planting 155,000 seeds with the new planter instead of 220,000 seeds with the air seeder. On 2,000 acres that becomes pretty significant.”
Rosenquist wanted one planter for both corn and soybeans, so he decided to use 22" rows.
“I wish we would have done it years ago. We'd never think of going back,” he says. “Our corn yields increased 8 bu/acre. Beans yielded about 1½ bu less last year, but the seed savings more than makes up for that.
“If you're going to upgrade, don't think twice about narrow rows. The weed control is so much better. We've quit cultivating corn — there's just no benefit with the 22" rows. We spray the beans twice with Roundup and we're done.”
Rosenquist built his 24-row, 22" planter on a Friesen toolbar that flexes at two points. “I've had other toolbars that only flex in the middle,” he says. “This one follows the contour a lot better.”
Case IH Cyclo 955 seed pods and planter units provide the bulk seed capacity and planter unit accuracy that Rosenquist wanted on his new planter. A Rawson controller allows him to vary corn hybrid populations.
“We plant 35,000 seeds/acre under the pivots and 25,000 seeds/acre in the corners,” he says. Last year he discovered that reducing seed populations on non-irrigated ground saves more money than just the price of the seed.
“We ran a few test plots where we left the population at the irrigated rate in the corners. The high populations under dryland conditions dropped the yield from 100 bu/acre to 60 bu/acre. Under irrigation we harvested 180 bu/acre with the high population.”
Rosenquist knows that a GPS unit eventually will vary rates for him automatically. But he's not quite ready to use that technology. “It's going to have to be more farmer-friendly before we use it. We've got too many acres to cover. We can't be fooling around trying to get stuff set.”
The advantage of lower seeding rates with soybeans dissipates as the calendar approaches May 10. If spring weather delays planting, Rosenquist plants soybeans with his air seeder in addition to the planter. Potential yield losses for plantings delayed beyond May 10 more than compensate for seed costs, according to Rosenquist.
At Grey Eagle, MN, brothers Bill and David Berscheit wanted a 30" corn planter that could handle dry fertilizer in bulk. They figured they might as well build something that would plant narrow beans, too.
The result is a 12-row, 30" planter that tows a Flexicoil air cart. Dry fertilizer units mounted on special brackets tuck dry fertilizer in 2 × 2 next to the corn. “It was everything we expected — very accurate,” says David Berscheit.
“We designed the brackets so the fertilizer units can slide over and split the planter units to make a 23-row, 15" planter,” says Berscheit. So far, that feature is theory rather than fact. “The fertilizer units on the planter work fine for fertilizer. But we're not confident enough with the depth control to use it for soybeans. We're still looking for an opener in the right price range that can do the job.”
Before building their new planter, the brothers had used individual boxes for dry fertilizer.
“We needed something that would allow us to transfer fertilizer more easily,” Berscheit says. “We usually apply about 100 lbs of 9-23-30 with some zinc as a pop-up.”
The ground-driven air cart couples to the planter with a hitch mounted between the lift-assist wheels.
The high costs of nitrogen fertilizer will be offset on some of the Berscheits' acres this year with applications of turkey manure.
“We applied 3 tons of turkey manure per acre on 100 acres last fall,” he says. “We'll probably do another 200 acres this spring. That should give us about 100 lbs of N. With the nitrogen credit from soybeans, about 40 lbs/acre, we should only need about another 40 lbs of N per acre for corn.”