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“Then the air cylinder come out and now you have Air Adjust row cleaners, you have hydraulic adjust row cleaners, airbag adjust row cleaners. I mean, there's just a lot of things have come a long way on the row cleaner to make it work and function a lot better."

— David Moeller

 

David Moeller of Keota, Iowa, is something of a planter whisperer. Moeller opened the doors on Moeller Ag Services in 1989 and has consulted with no-tillers as far afield as Australia and New Zealand about making their planters work.

Moeller holds a wealth of information about the particulars of no-till planters. For example, to convince no-tillers to abandon coulters, he’s pulled them off one half of a planter’s rows and demonstrated the equal effectiveness of row cleaners. Want to know how set a drag chain on a no-till planter? Moeller’s your guy.

This week’s episode of the No-Till Farmers: Influencers & Innovators podcast is brought to you by Source by Sound Agriculture.


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No-Till Farmer‘s No-Till Influencers & Innovators Podcast podcast is brought to you by SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture.

More from this series

SOURCE from Sound Agriculture unlocks more of the nitrogen and phosphorus already in your fields, so you can rely less on expensive and hard-to-find fertilizer. This foliar applied chemistry has an low use rate and is tank mix compatible, getting a free ride into the field. Check out SOURCE — it's like caffeine for microbes. Learn more at www.sound.ag.

 

Full Transcript

Brian O'Connor:

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Influencers & Innovators podcast. I'm Brian O'Connor, lead content editor for No-Till Farmer. Source by Sound Agriculture sponsors this podcast about the past, present, and future of no-till farming. David Moeller of Keota, Iowa is something of a planter whisperer. Moeller opened the doors on Moeller Ag Services in 1989 and is consulted with no tillers as far afield as Australia and New Zealand about making their planters work. Here's no-till farmer, editor Frank Lessiter talking to Moeller about trends and equipment, fertilizer and more.

Dave Moeller:

Washington, Iowa and Washington County, that's kind of where we're located south of Iowa City, Iowa. We started our business in 1989 actually we worked for Allis Chalmers now Ag Co, Allis Chalmers dealership for nine years and then they closed their doors and that forced us to go on our own, which was kind of a scary thing at the time. But then we realized that actually, now here we are almost 40 years later, it's probably one of the best things that ever happened. But as for business-wise, yeah we run an agricultural repair business. We specialize in planting equipment, but we still also work on tractors, combines, skid loaders. Obviously, the planter thing we can't do year round, but yet that gives a little more diversity of what we work on.

So the planter side is something we really took and kind of took off when we started. We were actually into planter maintenance at the Allis Chalmers dealership. They were also Kinze dealer. One of the things that we kind of talk about, I remember back then we were running corn meters and that was planter maintenance. Corn meters were the thing. And I know we had an actual test stand that we acquired there at the business at the Allis Chalmers dealership. And then we took in one year did, $26,000 worth of business in one season for just planter corn meter repair. And I remember Kinze calling up trying to find out what we were doing to sell that many parts.

So that was the start of corn meter repair and got us kind of intrigued about planter repair is something that is you get one chance to do it right, and that's what we've always centered on in making sure that planter maintenance is something you really put your emphasis on.

Frank Lesseter:

So I take it at the Allis Chalmers dealer, you were back in the service department and not up front in this showroom, huh?

Dave Moeller:

That is correct, yes. We were a mechanic back then and like I said, we started right out of high school. We went to college for a semester and didn't really feel that was something that was taking us where we wanted to. And this opportunity came up and like I said, we had some good mentors there and the owners were really good about when they actually were getting ready to close the doors, they came to us and said, "We really think you can take and do this on your own." So that's what we ended up doing.

Frank Lesseter:

I know you work on all kinds of planters and all types of tillage systems with planters, but you've kind of been a specialist in no-till. How did you get into that specialty?

Dave Moeller:

Well, and that goes back again... So no-till in southeast Iowa, in Washington County is big. And that kind of started in the early eighties and we had some Washington County extension people that were really good about pushing and at least mentioning and talking about and getting meetings together about conservation. And obviously everybody was planting in the fall and then you did work the ground two or three times and then you planted into a dusty seed bed.

Basically, the conservation tillage come about to get rid of the plow, help stop erosion. And then of course obviously, planter attachments started to come about. And I know my family, they started no-tilling in 1982 for the first time we had an old Allis Chalmers 333 planter that we actually flipped the frame over to put the no-till coulters back closer to the row unit. And of course no-till coulters were the thing back then.

I know we started out with two inch wavy coulters on that particular planter. And to me it was like when we watched that work, it's like nope, this is not what we want. That two inch wavy coulter was just disturbing soil tremendously. So we had an old case plow there that had smooth coulters on it. We went and grabbed the coulters off that and stuck on there, and that actually worked really good. So that was the start of planter things attachment-wise at that point. We were trying to figure out what worked best, but like I say, the eighties brought about trash whippers as in disc type trash whippers, smooth disc and notch disc. And that was kind of the start of helping be able to no-till without disturbing soil. And that no-till coulter was a detriment in our mind 'cause we were always like a no-till coulter makes you wait in two ways. It makes you wait for the ground to dry out and it makes you add weight to the planter. There are two things that can cost you a lot of money.

Frank Lesseter:

Well my gosh, you were one of the early advocates of getting those coulters off the planter.

Dave Moeller:

Exactly. That's one of the things we've ensured. A lot of guys are really adamant about having a coulter on their planter rail unit. But like I say, I mean we've been to a lot of customers places and we've said, "All right, I'd like to prove to you that we can make this work better," and we'd pull a couple rows off and see if we could run without a coulter. And the row cleaner would come about in the early nineties and that's when we were talking about taking coulters off and trying to get a better system on there to clean the path for the planter row unit.

Frank Lesseter:

Do you see a place for no-till coulters today in some circumstances?

Dave Moeller:

Yes. In certain conditions, yes. That is something that can help, especially if you're double cropping or planting in the sod, which there's not a lot of that done around here. Right now, the thing that's taking off is cover crops, but we can still make things work with a row cleaner and not have to have a coulter in that situation. So yeah, there's going to be a time where a coulter is something that helps if you got a really hard soil base that you're working with, that might be a place where can take and utilize a coulter, but I'm not a big coulter fan.

Frank Lesseter:

Yeah, I pulled up an article we did with you on this series, what I've learned about no-tilling way back in 2009. And I got to read you one of your comments here. "I joke that no-till coulters make you wait for the ground to dry out and then make you add weight to the planter to keep the coulters in the ground."

Dave Moeller:

And we're still advocating that. I mean, that's been a while back. Like I say, one of the things that probably to me revolutionized planters today is still the row cleaner. That was probably one of the biggest things that have come out. And again, in the early nineties, we got to be associated with Howard Martin got a visit with him and I really think the row cleaner has revolutionized, I mean obviously, the planter unit itself, the old... I think the double-disc opener planter unit to come out john Deere introduced back in the seventies, that was a big step forward. And then to me, the next one was row cleaners. Row cleaners again today are probably one of the most commonly used and needed item on a planter.

Frank Lesseter:

So let's talk about row cleaners. How does a farmer get these adjusted properly? What should they do?

Dave Moeller:

Well, row cleaners have come a long ways from back when they were first introduced. Obviously the first ones were pin adjusted so you were forced to get out of the tractor and set that thing to the point where we wanted to rake the trash out of the way. If there was a little bit of crust on the soil surface, you could set them down to take and break that crust. But we didn't want to move any soil. And that was the problem with face-mounted row cleaners is basically relied on the row unit when it was moving up and down. Sometimes it would miss, sometimes it would move a little too much.

And then the floating row cleaner come about. And that helped because it could actually follow the ground contour and you'd have these depth bands on the sides of the row cleaner wheel to help follow the ground contour. Well, that was the next step of the row cleaner moving forward of helping clean the path for the row cleaner. And less... How do I want to describe it? When you had a face mount pin-adjust row cleaner, you had to get out and adjust for ground conditions that might be different from the morning to the afternoon.

So where the floating row cleaner come in, that helped take some of that guesswork out of it. And then of course then the air cylinder come out and now you have air-adjust row cleaners, you have hydraulic-adjust row cleaners, airbag-adjust row cleaners. I mean, there's just a lot of things have come a long way in the row cleaner to make it work and function a lot better.

Frank Lesseter:

How does the farmer know when these row cleaners need replacing?

Dave Moeller:

There's always obviously, on the row cleaner wheels, there's dimensions that we go by. You need to know your particular manufacturer. And I know some of these row cleaners that we work with, they have a 13 inch diameter wheel on it and a lot of times when it gets out in that 12 and half inch diameter, 12 and a half, 12 and a quarter inch diameter, we replace the wheel. You just lose the ability to rake the trash. It has to be run a little more aggressive when the wheel wears down.

Frank Lesseter:

One of the things you talked about, and we've had you talk a couple times at the national No-Tillage conference. You've always done a great job and there's been lots of interest. There's always interest in planter maintenance, planter adjustments. You kind of made the comment in the past, you got to adjust your no-till planter every year and maybe make some changes or think about it. And we're doing this podcast about 10 days before Thanksgiving. So the winter season's coming. No-tillers, what should they do over the winter with their planters?

Dave Moeller:

Well, obviously, yes. From one year to the next, we definitely want to take and bring the planter in the shop and go through the row units. There's all kinds of wear points. Obviously, chains and bearings, we want to take and make sure that the chains are not getting kinked or also wear on the sprockets, bushings on the paralinkage. Disc openers, we always take and tell customers, "You need to take that row unit and strip it down to the bare shank and look at every piece of the planter unit. Every part has an integral part of making that thing work.

Obviously, disc openers, making sure the diameter of those are good, they're sharp, their bearings aren't loose. We're also wanting to make and check that row unit shank, and with today's automated down pressure systems out there, hydraulic downforce airbag systems, it puts more stress on the row unit. Obviously, we need to be looking for shank cracks and things like that.

But the wear points are the main things. Bushings on the paralinkage, the closing wheel pivots, again the disc openers, drive chains, bearings, we want to make sure we roll the shafts, take the chains off the shafts and roll them through. Obviously, technology has come a long way. I talk about drive chains. A lot of planners now are electric driven. There is no drive shafts. There is no bearings. And that's one of the things that's nice about... We are a Precision Planting dealer, so we actually have quite a few planters that are out with... It's electric drive, so there is no drive shafts, no contact wheel drives, no tire pressure issues with the drive system that's been eliminated. Everything's trying to improve the ability for that planter to do its job.

Frank Lesseter:

So are farmers pretty good about wanting to bring these in every year and let you look at them? It costs them some money or I suppose once they've done it, you get them back.

Dave Moeller:

It varies, Frank, because like I say, a lot of customers have nice shops and facilities and we usually have a planter clinic every year and go through adjustments and things to check on the planter unit. And several customers and growers do their own maintenance. It's just a matter of educating them on what to look for. We have planters that come in yearly and we have customers that basically have us come to the field or to the country and look a planter over, make a list and then they decide what they want to do or what they want us to do.

Frank Lesseter:

So let's say you had a 16 row planter in you live someplace, Kansas, Nebraska or something, what would be a guess as to what this might cost you to have someone like you just look at their planter?

Dave Moeller:

I mean obviously, what we do is we try to go in... And if a customer calls and say, "Hey, I want you to look at my planter, make a list of it," you're going to spend probably two or three hours pretty easily just going through. We usually take and go in there and take a couple row units apart, physically measure and measure all the wear points. And like I say, look at the drives, again, just make a list. It can be as little as a couple hundred bucks. It could be close to a thousand dollars depending on how big the planter is and what needs to be done. But normally making a list of what they need to have done to that planter and then they can decide, "All right, we need to either take it to a dealership or we can handle this ourselves."

Frank Lesseter:

That brings up the next question. Why do farmers in your area come to you instead of going to their dealership?

Dave Moeller:

That's kind of a double-edged sword there. I mean there's nothing wrong with OEMs. They do a good job. We've always tried to be one that you try to be the best at what you do and that's where you be thorough about what you're checking and what you're doing and hopefully again, educate the customer at the same time. A lot of times, dealerships will bring a planter in for inspection and they just have a checklist and they go down through and they check off, "Okay, that looks good, that looks good." But when you physically take a row unit apart and physically look at it and have the customer there and go over the planter and say, "All right, here's what we see. This is what needs to be done." Hopefully, be a little more understanding of what needs to be done to the planter. And they can either again tackle themselves or have us do it.

Frank Lesseter:

Well, we do farm equipment magazine that goes to dealers and we had a dealer recently tell us, I think he was in western Kentucky that said, "My gosh, half of my planter parts sales go to independent shops like yours." So he said that independent shops are a big customer of ours for planter parts.

Dave Moeller:

Again, I hope with the dealerships around they see that there's still money to be made in parts sales, but yet obviously you want to take in hopefully keep that customer in the door. But I think a little bit more of the personal connection with the customer, you need to know their operation and I think that's what I try to do is, my customers in this area, we know their operation and obviously we want to make sure that they succeed. And obviously, it's a two-way street. We help them and they help us with our business.

So obviously, we want to take and help them make a good return on their investment, let's put it that way. That's the key is return on investment and obviously, again, planter is probably the most important thing on the farm. You get one chance to do it. That's where it needs to be in tip top shape.

Frank Lesseter:

Well we got farmers today that this has been a good year for them. They got some income and there's been some farmers that say, "I'm going to buy a new planter," but when they go to buy it, they realize they can't get delivery on it for a year or 18 months. So has the retrofit business picked up for you as planters that are two or three or four years old?

Dave Moeller:

That has been steady. Obviously, you can take any planner out there and retrofit it to the newer technology. A lot of different companies have that capability to do that. But yes, that has been steady for the last, oh shoot, five, 10 years that retrofitting older planters. Obviously I just had a customer here call the other day and we've got a 2001 planter. So it's basically 21 years old, and we're going to take and convert it to a high speed. So we've been doing maintenance on the planter and he's made the commitment they didn't want to spend the money on a new planter and the toolbar and framing everything is good shape, row units are good shape and we're going to go ahead and convert it to high speed.

Frank Lesseter:

So walk me through what you're going to do with this planter. This is fascinating because this planter's 21 years old.

Dave Moeller:

So obviously this particular planter's a Kinze 16 row. He's got some technology on right now, he's running electric drives. He also has hydraulic down force. So what we're going to do is go in and go through the row units again and again just like we do, take the row unit apart, make sure all the bushings and wear points are in good shape. And then obviously we will take in with the high speed part of it, we're going to be adding speed tubes to it.

And then at that same token, I actually asked the customer, I said "Obviously, when we do that, we replace the lower end of the row unit with a special..." I mean it's still a seed tube guard that's made specifically for the high speed tubes in there. Well anyway, I told him, I said, "When's the last time you replaced your disc openers?" And he goes, "Well, I think it's been two years ago." But he goes, "I don't remember for sure." I said, "Well, we'll be measuring that for sure," 'cause I said, "If have a minimal amount of wear, we still might put new disc openers on because we're putting fresh seed tube guards and things on the lower end of the row unit."

I want to make sure that that plant is like it's new going out the door rather than putting on some somewhat warm disc openers. They maybe only have a quarter inch war off of them, but yet that's going to put extra wear on my new pieces I'm putting on. So with that system we're going to take and obviously go through it and bring... I mean we need to take in. He's got a list of small things. He's got a couple cylinders that got some leaks to them. So we're going to go ahead and fix that. Obviously check the frame over, make sure we don't have any cracks or anything anywhere. And like I say, bring that planter back up so it's capable to run on that.

He's not one that's going to take and run 10 mile an hour, I can tell you that. But in a no-till situation, got a lot of customers want to run six to eight mile an hour. So it's not something you just go out there and I'm going to throw high speed on a planter and run 10 mile an hour. That's just not going to happen unless you're got some good fields to work with. And obviously, we have some good soil around this area but again it's rolling. So you still got to take and use your head when you're planting high speed. I have a lot of customers that run average, would be seven mile an hour, and if you can go from four and a half to seven mile an hour, think of amount of acres you can cover in a day, and that's what we're seeing. A lot less labor is out there. I mean it's hard to get help. Guys are covering as much or more ground than they used to. So that's something we see it's happening.

Frank Lesseter:

So I'm sitting here and I printed out this 2009 article in which you walked us through planter, it was about 15 years old. And so I'm going to pull some points out of here. Seed firmers, are you still recommending seed firmers?

Dave Moeller:

Definitely yes. Seed firmer and row cleaners. Two of the most common things used in my mind that need to be on a planter. Those two things can make you a lot of money. And of course, things have changed in seed firmers over the years to, I know a lot of times when you're at a show or event, you have a lot of customers go up and they were like, "Seed firmers, those are the biggest waste of money," in my mind because they wanted to take and build up a soil. And now, seed from that are out there, they come with a low stick UMVW poly and it will not stick or have soil stick to it like we did in the old days. And to me a seed firmer, again, that's a pretty much given four to seven bushel.

Frank Lesseter:

Yeah, that's what I was just going to say, back then you said it was worth four to five bushels of corn yield.

Dave Moeller:

And I think that's still... And as we go into get into high speed planters, I think that's even more of a must. We got to be able to get that seed nailed to the bottom of the trench.

Frank Lesseter:

How do you check the tension or adjustment on these?

Dave Moeller:

So obviously, back when that article was then we'd actually take a fish scale, we'd tie it to the end of the seed firmer. So it was one to one and a half pounds. Now, what we're finding out in the companies that are making seed firmers basically are finding out that farmers don't check their seed firmer tension. And obviously, we as a business, we still do that when a customer brings a planter in but the newer seed firmers now are running more tension. They put more tension to the seed firmer hopefully getting up into that three to four pounds of tension. And again, the reason for that is with a high speed planter, we're going to nail that seed to the bottom of the trench.

So you can actually take and still check your attention with a fish scale, but with these newer seed trimers, couple things with the new material they're made of and the way they're designed, they actually are resilient to wear. So they're going to last three to five times longer. And also if you're still able... And you can still run the older seed firm, but we usually tell guys, run them for a couple years and put new tails on. That way you don't have to worry about setting that tension all the time 'cause we do still advocate that. Make sure you have some tension on your seed trimers from one year to the next. But obviously as things change and technology changes there's better setup out there.

Frank Lesseter:

The next thing you talked about in this other article was gauge wheels. What's happening in that area?

Dave Moeller:

So gauge wheels, obviously, we want to make sure that the gauge wheels are adjusted up to the disc opener and they lightly touch the disc opener. That brings to mind, we had a customer here a couple years ago and when we have our planter clinic, that's something we always push. Make sure you, as a customer, take in your shop, get a couple four by fours, set the planner unit down on, make sure your depth adjustment is set properly so you know exactly where two inches is at so you know that your depth adjustment is set properly. So you know might have one row that's one notch difference between row units. You might have it's actually an eighth inch on your single notch on your adjustment, but yet one row might be adjusted differently.

Well, I had a customer call me up and he goes, "I got one row, I can't figure out what was going on." And he goes, "I set it down" and he goes, "It's like a full two notches different." And I said, "Well, we're going to be up in that area, let's take a look at it." So he had the four by fours out. We set the planter down, and as he slowly went down, the gauge wheels basically bowed out away from the disc openers. So the pivots where the gauge wheels were pivoting were worn enough that the gauge wheels come away from the disc opener and instead of running two inches, he was running two and three quarters. So it's three quarter of inch difference from one row to the next.

So to see that difference on a particular planter, the gauge wheels bode away from the disc openers like, holy cow, we got some wear we needed to address, and it happened to be on a 24 row planter. It was on the outer end, probably got a little more abuse from the outer rows, whether it's contours and things like that, that would actually put more stress on them row units, but yet something simple as that, the adept of the seed would've been three quarter of an inch deeper in that particular row.

So even emergence, we keep talking about that. That's where that comes into play. And that's where gauge wheels, we normally run a four, four and a half inch wide gauge wheel. But now with these planters with the hydraulic down force, we're actually starting to go away from the wider gauge wheel going to a narrower gauge wheel, going to a three inch. And the reason being is a couple things. One is we increase our speed. We're trying to take and clean the path of that row unit. And obviously when you have a four inch wide gauge wheel, you're trying to clean a wider path for that one. Well, when we go to a three inch gauge wheel, we don't need to have that path as wide because we're controlling the depth of the seed and where them disco openers are located for keeping the depth. We don't have to worry about having a big wide footprint to support the resident. We have a down force system that's taking coming into play for that.

Brian O'Connor:

We'll come back to Frank Lessiter and David Moeller in a moment. I'd like to first thank our sponsor, Source by Sound Agriculture for supporting today's podcast. Source from Sound Agriculture unlocks more of the nitrogen and phosphorous in your fields so you can rely less on expensive fertilizer. This foliar application has a low use rate and you can mix it right into your tank. Check out Source. It's like caffeine for microbes. Learn more at www.sound.ag. Before we get back to the discussion with Moeller, here's no-till farmer editor, Frank Lessiter.

Frank Lesseter:

For today's program, we're going to look back at an article that we did with Dave Moeller way back in 2009 and he talked about several things that were critical on a no-till planter. And we're going to talk about two of those today in a little more detail. And he covered these in his regular podcasts, but I'm going to give you a few more details.

The first one is row cleaners. He says the key is to just row cleaners so they remove trash from the soil surface but don't move the soil. And if you start out with the 15 inch row cleaner wheel, it can safely wear down to 14 inches and it still do a good job for you. But if you're working with a 13 inch spiked roll cleaner wheel, replace it when it's worn down to 12 inches. And if you encounter soil that is crusted over from heavy rains, the row cleaner setting can be adjusted to break the crust without significantly moving soil. Back in 2009 he said this would be an unusual situation.

Brian O'Connor:

Now back to Frank and David.

Frank Lesseter:

Next up was spike closing wheels.

Dave Moeller:

The closing wheel systems has come a long ways. There's so many, I think I know at one time somebody said there's 42 different combinations of closing systems out there, and I think that's more than that now. That's one of those things everybody's trying to have the best mouse strap out there. I mean we'll still advocate spike closing wheels. I know that system. I know Martin's come out with what they call a second stage closer. So it's actually running spike closing wheels in lieu of a firming wheel behind. And obviously, there's a whole slew of different closing systems out there.

Which one's the best? It all depends on the environment you're putting it in. Again, I'm going to be a little biased, we are a precision dealer, so there's a 404 system out there. We've seen some good results from that, some side by sides. So obviously, it comes down to what works for your operation. And it's like anything you put on the planter, it comes with an expense. So you got to have return. So you got to look at the big picture. How many acres are we covering? What's the return? How long's it going to take to pay for it? So is it justifiable? That's where we got to look at... Again, you're trying to make your customer money, and obviously, they're going to keep coming back to you if you can take and put add-ons that are going to give them return.

Frank Lesseter:

Yeah, one of the comments you made in 2009 was a mistake that was made with Martin 13 inch spike wheels. You said you had to install them right and had to put at least one of them backwards.

Dave Moeller:

That can happen pretty easily and we still see that happen today. If a row cleaner or a closing wheel gets put on backwards, they don't work near as well. Again, it's one of those things you need to make sure you read the instructions really well but that can easily be done. Yes. And we still see that happen today.

Frank Lesseter:

Drag chains. What about drag chains?

Dave Moeller:

Drag chains are still something that are... I got a lot of customers that use those. Again with the closing system, technology changing, obviously there's systems out there that we don't need a drag chain or the drag chain did a wonderful job of putting the finishing touch on a closing system, making sure we didn't have any cracks or voids in the ground and pulverizing that little bit of clottiness that might come with no-till. But drag chains, we still sell them but we don't sell near as many because of the other systems that are out there. A lot of things have changed in the last 20 years.

Frank Lesseter:

Right. Let's move over to fertilizer. What's the trend? Liquid, dry? What are you doing different with fertilizer on the planters?

Dave Moeller:

Around this area, it's mostly liquid mainly because of ease of handling. Still do a lot of liquid systems, liquid nitrogen, pop up fertilizers. Again, no-till early planting, I still think that's a necessity. A lot of guys are now getting into the mentality of spoon feeding the crop. And when you do that, we want to have some early fertilizer and then they'll come back and do a side dress, whether it's liquid or in hydris or with a sprayer system.

Obviously, splitting up the nitrogen application, trying to be a little more conscientious about not losing your fertilizer from rain events. A lot of guys will put everything on up front and you're banking on everything to be there as the procedure progresses. But we both know that rain events seem to be more [inaudible 00:31:30], heavy ones and a little bit further between. So sometimes you can leech your fertilizer out of the system. So that's why we need to be watching and making sure that we spoon feed the crop, and we see a lot more fertilizer systems going on planters.

Frank Lesseter:

So are you still pretty much placing fertilizer two by two or not?

Dave Moeller:

That one is still... I mean obviously there's... When we're doing infer products, I know most people are putting it either behind or ahead seed. But fertilizer is normally, yes. There's systems out there, we still put it over two inches to the side, two inches down. Normally we always say an inch into moisture, obviously inch and a half to two inches down. Depending on how much you're putting on depends on how far away... The rule of thumb around here is an inch for every 10 gallon out of 28 away from the seed. It varies. And some of these systems now, I can split my product to each side of the row. So I can actually keep it a little bit closer to the row itself but yet have that split. So you're 50% on each side of the row unit.

Frank Lesseter:

Yeah.

Dave Moeller:

And there's also surface supplied behind row unit yet. That's still an option.

Frank Lesseter:

One of the things going on with no-till today is we've got a lot of farmers who are planting green. Do you do anything different with the planter if he's planting green?

Dave Moeller:

Obviously when you plant green, it always throws in a lot more variables. I know we were in a situation this past '22 planting season and obviously, the rye crop got away from the customer and he was planting in the rye that was almost waist high and the system was doing a decent job but he just had to slow down a little bit. Obviously that planter was set up for high speed and he has places he could run that. But in that particular area, we couldn't run much over four mile an hour just because we had to let the planter unit do its job of getting that. I mean we had no roller or anything. We just dropped in row cleaner out front, parting the green. I mean as it was parting, it was pushing it down, let the row unit do its job, hydraulic down force, get the seed placed.

It did have a closing system on it that it was the newer technology capable to be able to adjust that closing system on the go. Had an airbag system on it. It's getting a reading and changing the closing system. But it did a good job. We had to slow down a little bit to make it work and function. Obviously, trying to terminate that crop in this area, a lot of guys try to do that, but we still have a few guys that do green planting. And again, that particular field, again, it rained early on and the cover crop grew tremendously. Actually, it's almost starting to head to the point where when we planted, so probably not something I would recommend, but yet I know there's guys that do it and I know growers will take and roll it too.

But this particular gentleman, same customer had applied manure like two weeks before in this standing rye and they put it on an angle and he was trying to plant not with that straight, perpendicular to the angle and it just wasn't working. There was still wetness from the manure being applied. So again, there's challenges planting green, but it can be overcome. It's just you got to get the adjustments on the planter to work and function properly.

Frank Lesseter:

Yeah, I'm amazed at how many of our no-till farmer readers are planting green and I don't know many that have tried it and then given it up. It seems to think it works for them. Soybeans in your area, are they put in mainly with a planter or are they drilled and do you work on drills?

Dave Moeller:

So in this area it used to be drills heavily. I think it was because the wider, you get a 40 foot drill, 60 foot air seeder to go in and cover a big amount of ground in a short period of time. But the problem is seed costs is still being the driving factor there. As seed costs go up, now we've got more guys reverting back to a 15 inch row planter. Your twin line systems like a Kinze office pusher units or a Deere 1790, you got 15 inch rows trying to get more precise placement again with the planter unit and also trying to save on seed costs, trying to be a little more exact.

A lot of times we are dropping 200, 220,000 in population with a drill. Now, guys are pulling that back to 120 to 130,000 with a planter in 15 inch rows. A lot more planters are coming back into the system and I think it's because again, precise placement and trying to pull the population back and be a little more exact. Yeah, we'll still work on drills. Like I said, there's not as many in the area but again, there's a lot more wear components on a drill system, especially when you're running seven and a half inch basins. A lot more opener units to deal with and I think that's another maintenance cost can add up too on a drill.

Frank Lesseter:

You've mentioned cover crops. You do anything on seeding cover crops you're working on?

Dave Moeller:

So we had a drill come in here actually a couple of days ago. It was a cross buster, had rye in it, and they were having some hydraulic down pressure issues. We had a cylinder that was actually acting up, leaking by internally. So working on that. So yes, a lot of cover crops have been planted already. Actually, things are starting to green up around here because we've had some nice weather in the seventies, and that cover crop's about two inches tall right now. So the fields are starting to green up from that with a couple rains we've had. And we were actually awfully dry this year, probably 12, 15 inches below normal.

Frank Lesseter:

Let's talk about that a little. If you get a drought, what's a farmer got to do with his planter to get a good stand, get even germination?

Dave Moeller:

Well obviously at planting time, the grower's still the one that has to make that decision of we need to plant in the moisture. And if that takes plant two and a half inches, two and three quarter, we need to do it. But we also be looking at the forecast trying to decide are we going to get a rain or are we not? And if not, we need to take and put that seed down to where the moisture is. And hopefully again, with your planter maintenance, you're going to take in again... Even though you're planting at two and three quarters inch, you still should get even emergence.

Obviously, you got to take in, again, each situation's different but like I say, this spring was a challenge because we had early wet and then all of a sudden here it was. It was 80 degrees in and we had guys that were planting... When you're planting inch and a half, two inches deep, it was muck but the top was dry and a lot of corn here in this area went the ground in about three days. Those are one of the things you got to be so careful of because when you put that much in the ground, you got to make sure everything's working properly to make sure you do have, again, seed soil contact and hopefully get that even emergence 'cause as it's hot, the soil's still drying, but you're putting it down in the wet muck. It could actually try to open up and that's where the closing system still... There's so many closing systems out there that you need to have something to get that trench closed so don't open back up.

Frank Lesseter:

We've got some manufacturers that says, "Hey, with the new planters you can drive 10 miles per hour." Are you seeing farmers do that?

Dave Moeller:

I have a couple guys that run 10 mile hour, but they're on irrigated under a pivot and it is work ground. So they basically go in and do a one pass tillage in the spring and then they plant it. So the ground is smooth. No-till, I don't think you're going to see too many growers running 10 mount hour. Again, I see a lot of customers running six to eight, mainly trying to cover more acres in a shorter period of time, but yet not have... Obviously, when you're in no-till, the ground's going to be a little rougher and you still want that row unit to do its job. Obviously, down pressure and things like that come into play and that's where automated down force is a big help.

Frank Lesseter:

You mentioned that you also work on combines. What's the kind of work you do with combines?

Dave Moeller:

So yeah, we specialize in Gleaner combines. We've been doing that since the early eighties.

Frank Lesseter:

It goes back to your Allis Chalmers days.

Dave Moeller:

It does. And of course we grew up with a red combine, but that got traded off in the early eighties for a Gleaner. And so we've been still modifying and trying to make those run more efficiently. Obviously, a lot of things from the factory got changed from things that got done out in the country, and there's a few items that we saw change that we had played with. So it was kind of like, it's nice to actually have a OEM starting to at least watch. And I think a lot of OEMs watch the internet chatter. There's things out in the country, farmers are really good at making things work better.

And that's one thing I like about this area of the country that we're in, in Washington County. A lot of farmers always seem to be... We always talk about you can be a leader or you can be a follower or you better get out of the way. And I think the people in this area are leaders and a lot of people, farmers and growers are in competition with themselves, but in this area everybody's trying to help everybody advance the system to the next level.

And that's all we feel fortunate to be. You got to have some type of connection with other people. That's what's nice about going to the no-till conference, being able to take and get out into the hallways and visit with other growers and find out what works, what don't work. I like the no-till classrooms. I know we participated in that and you got to find out, "Hey, here's things that work for us and here's things that didn't." So it might save somebody some time of not having to, "Well, that's what I was going to try. There's no need to try it if you've already done that."

Frank Lesseter:

Right, then you find somebody who said, "I couldn't make it work at all," and the next guy over says, "I've been doing it for five years successfully." You find out some little thing made a difference,

Dave Moeller:

Here's what it takes to make it work. And that's the thing you need to have. Obviously you'd never want to stop learning. That's one of those things, if you close your mind that, "Okay, this is the only way it's going to work," to me, you're going to be stuck and you got to have your mind open to... I always talk about think outside the box. You got to look at all options, and there's always seems like there's something that comes down the road that's a little bit better. And obviously, there's research and things that go with everything else, but yet you want to make sure that before you try it that's done. But again, sometimes you got to be the Guinea pig.

Frank Lesseter:

Right. Well, on combines you still see ads for combines, new combines or video where they're not spreading residue the full width of the header, which is pretty important with no-till. How do we get people or even the manufacturers to get this residue spread, the full width?

Dave Moeller:

And that's one of the things, obviously the headers are getting wider 40 to 50 foot, and obviously, that's something that still needs to be addressed. I know in this area, that's one of the things that we strive to take and do, even if it requires a chaff spreader being added, could be playing with the speed of that chaff spreader. I know again, 30, 40 foot headers is real common and a lot of times you can get to 2025, but you'll have that extra five feet on each side and every pass you see that.

And that can make a big difference. It can be a lot wetter underneath that matted trash. Trying to keep that consistent. So one, it's an even uniform moisture across the width versus having some places where it's actually can get drier. And then you're obviously, that's where it comes back to even emergence on the corn plant or the soybeans. We want to try and make sure everybody comes up at the same time, hopefully within a 36 hour period. Trying to make that happen on a combine that obviously different manufacturers, sometimes you're going to have to take it upon yourself to make something work there.

Frank Lesseter:

Right. Let's say I bring in a 24 roll planter that's five years old. I say to you, "I want you to do the maintenance and everything else on it," but I got 15,000 bucks here. I would give you, how would you spend that 15 grand on that five year old planter?

Dave Moeller:

Well, so obviously, you're going to take in, basically go through the row units first. I mean obviously I need to have that row unit in tip top shape. $15,000 is probably not going to take you too far in a row cleaner area. But let's say it's already got the row cleaners on it.

Frank Lesseter:

I'll raise my investment then.

Dave Moeller:

Obviously, if it's got row cleaners on it, we need to look at, all right, you got to look at the grower's operation. Is he in a no-till situation or is he in a conservation tillage system? Ask him, "What are your issues? What are you seeing? Are you having emergence issues? Are you able to get the trench closed? Are you able to get the row cleaned? I mean, are we having problems with the row cleaner itself doing its job?" We need to address what's on the planner at the time. You need to find out what each individual customer's got for an operation. And that's why sometimes when you're talking to somebody, everybody says you go a hundred miles from home, you're an expert. Well, you still need to be in tune with what that customer or growers operation is working with.

And we talk about this area. I talk to growers in Minnesota, obviously that's a different realm. I mean they have a shorter growing season but heavier soil. So you have to address that versus down south to getting into the Missouri, Kentucky area. Lighter soils, don't have to worry. Sometimes those guys don't have the freezing and thawing effect that we get here in the Midwest. So you need to know the grower's situation, but yet that's where we take and try to address a problem on the planter and hopefully again goes back to return on investment, trying to figure out where can we best spend that money wisely and get you some return and hopefully increase your yields.

Frank Lesseter:

Yeah, that's been great how you've looked at everything on our ROI and terms. One of the areas that's gets lots of talk these days is right to repair. As an independent operator, have you had concerns with this or not?

Dave Moeller:

Yeah, I mean it's getting to the point where obviously as we get to the end of our run, which that is in our site, and I think I've mentioned that to you before. I mean, we've been doing this for almost 40 years and I think we're ready to start slowing down. But we do see that in the combines and tractors, a lot of technology that you have to have a computer, which most repair shops do, but then you got to have the program and there's a lot of companies that won't allow you to have that, or it's very costly to have that. With the Gleaner combine side, we actually explored that, having that capability to hook up to an engine and do some troubleshooting. But it was to the point where if you were only doing that two or three times a year, it wasn't worth our time and effort to invest 20,000 to have the computer programs and have a yearly subscription to that to justify it.

So yeah, it's kind of a double-edged sword there also. It's like, yeah, you need to be able to support that customer, but yet when you don't have that capability, you got to go back to the dealership to have them come out and obviously hook the computer up and say, "Okay, your code is cleared. We're going to go ahead and try it again and make sure it works." And sometimes it might be something as simple as a sensor, but you can't fix it for them. And that's one thing that makes it tough for us as a independent. You want to help support that customer in this area. On the Gleaner side, the nearest dealer is an hour away.

So I feel confident that we're not infringing on anybody. I looked at that. We talked about that earlier about why would a person go to an independent versus a dealership. And again, I think it's that one on one, knowing your customer, knowing their operation, you get to know the people. That's work to me. And a dealership's going to do the same, but sometimes you get multiple dealerships under the same name, sometimes that's lost.

Frank Lesseter:

Right.

Dave Moeller:

It's more about making money than it is about getting that customer the service and support he needs.

Frank Lesseter:

Well, if right to repair doesn't make sense for you even on handling a couple, two or three Gleaner combines a year, it certainly can't make sense to a farmer who only has one Gleaner combine.

Dave Moeller:

That's right, yes. And I've seen some talk that they're pushing to have that opened up so at least you could go in there and you may have to pay a subscription for it to be able to have a computer hooked to it, at least maybe troubleshoot and tell the dealership, "All right, here's what I'm seeing. Now, tell me what I need to do."

So I mean, as technology advances, it gets tougher and tougher to be able to repair stuff without having a computer tied to your... We say in the planting site. I mean there's troubleshooting on these monitors. Obviously we have the capability to do that with the planter side of it yet and hasn't pinned us in a corner where we can't take and physically work on some electronics and make things function to work. The technology side never downgraded. It's fascinating to see. I look back at where we've come from and where we are today.

My dad talked about, we lost him this summer. He picked corn by hand. Get up in the morning, go out and pick ear corn by hand and come home at night after school and hopefully get a hundred bushel a day. And here we are, guys are running seven to 9,000 bushel an hour with a combine. And we were fortunate enough to see the ear picking and now getting into the harvest side of it, planting with a check wire planter, and to see high speed planters. I mean, the technology is still a driving force,

Frank Lesseter:

Right. I mean, my gosh, today we even see the need or there's a demand for 2000 bushel grain carts.

Dave Moeller:

Yes, exactly. It's crazy. But yet, like I say, with that kind of harvesting capacity, you need to be able to handle it. And obviously bigger acres, that's... A lot of guys look at, "Okay, rather than have two planters, let's have one planter and we'll convert it to high speed and still cover the same amount of acres."

Frank Lesseter:

Yeah, and as you said earlier, most of the corn in your area went in in three days. So you got to have the capability to do it.

Dave Moeller:

Exactly. And normally we tell guys, if you are looking at a planter, you need to be looking at something that put your crop in within a 10 day window, within 10 days of physically good planting conditions. Obviously you're not going to get usually 10 days consecutive, but you need to be able to put your crop in the ground in 10 days and obviously do it in a good economical way.

Frank Lesseter:

Are you seeing farmers in your area no-tilling soybeans before they do corn or not?

Dave Moeller:

Yes. I've got a lot of guys that they purchase the second planter and are taking in... They'll actually be planting soybeans the same time they're planting corn. Or just like you said, sometimes guys will plant early and sometimes I think the research is there that planting early soybeans does give you return if the weather cooperates, [inaudible 00:53:59] conditions. Mother nature still has her trump card.

Frank Lesseter:

Still depends on the year.

Dave Moeller:

Exactly. But yes, I do see that. I have several guys that are planting soybeans the same time they're planting corn.

Frank Lesseter:

Is there anything that you'd like to talk about that hasn't come up in this discussion?

Dave Moeller:

Well, like I said, the no-till conference, I would never... I'd always advocate anybody to ask about it, definitely take the time to go to that. Like I say, there's so much to learn from other growers, let alone all the classrooms and all the speakers that come. That's something that, like I say, we did that for several years, came down and did that. Like I say, as our business grew, it was harder and harder to get away in the wintertime for us. And like I said, we haven't been there for a while, but yeah, we need to get back there and rub elbows with other customers and growers. It's a great experience.

Frank Lesseter:

Years ago, I took a phone call in August and somebody was registering for the January no-till conference, and it was somebody I knew pretty well and I said to him, "Here you are signing up and I don't even have the program done. I don't know who I've got speaking yet." And the grower said to me, "I don't care." And I said, "What do you mean you don't care?" He says, "Well, look, I've been to this conference, I know how valuable it is. I know you'll have a good set of topics and speakers, but if I looked at the program you have done and I think you got lousy speakers and lousy topics, I'm still coming because I've seen the value of networking in the halls."

Dave Moeller:

Exactly. And that I think is probably the biggest takeaway is, like I say, it's the getting to talk to other growers in between meetings. There's a lot of conversation, a lot of good that comes from that.

Frank Lesseter:

And I've seen two strangers in a break go out in the hall, stand next to each other, and one guy says the other, "Did you just hear what that guy said? That is the dumbest idea I've ever seen." And the guy next to him says, "Well, I've been doing it successfully for five years." Then the other guy wants to know how.

Dave Moeller:

Yeah, exactly. And that's, to me, what makes it so special.

Brian O'Connor:

That was David Moeller talking with Frank Lessiter about equipment, the right to repair and other topics. Before we go, here's Frank Lessiter one more time.

Frank Lesseter:

The other thing that we're going to look at in the article that we did with Dave way back in 2009, deals with drag chains. And this is the last adjustment to make after the other components are working properly on your no-till planter. His best advice, keep the chain brackets as low to the ground as you can without dragging the trash. And he says, this chain should be holding about two handfuls of soil or about a cup ahead of it at all times. And when adjusted properly, the drag chains function like herald behind a till elevator or a disc to pulverize clots and fill voids and cracks in your no-till soils.

He recommends using 24 inches of three inch twisted link drag chain only. He says to adjust the space from the bottom lower corner of the chain bracket to the soil service between one and two inches, and remember to use a chain with twisted links. A regular log chain will not work. To prevent the chain from flipping over the closing wheels, he devised a pyramid-shaped deflector made from five six inch round rod. It's steeper in the center than a U-shaped deflector, which stops the chain from flying through and hanging up on the closing wheel.

Brian O'Connor:

That's it for this episode of the No-Till Farmer Influencers and Innovators podcast. Thanks again to our sponsor, Source by Sound Agriculture for helping to make this series possible. You can find more podcasts about no-till topics and strategies at no-tillfarmer.com/podcasts. A transcript of this episode will be available there shortly.

If you have any feedback on today's episode, please feel free to email me at B-O-C-O-N-N-O-R@Lessetermedia.com or call me at (262) 777-2413. No-till Farmer editor, Frank Lessiter, would also love to answer your questions about no-till and the people in the innovations shaping today's practices. Please email your questions for Frank to listenermail, all one word, @no-tillfarmer.com.

If you haven't already, you can subscribe to this podcast to get an alert whenever we release a new one. Find us wherever you listen to podcasts. For Frank and our entire staff here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Brian O'Connor. Thanks for listening, and keep it no-till.