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“How would I add more dollars to my farm this year? Start with early soybean planting. How can you plant soybeans early if you don't have drainage? That's why I put the tile first. When we talk about planting beans in central Illinois on April 1, it's in the tiled fields that are already dry.”

— Gregg Sauder, Founder, 360 Yield Center

Gregg Sauder has been at the forefront of no-till planter technology for decades — first as the founder of Precision Planting, which he later sold to Monsanto, and now as the founder of 360 Yield Center.

 In today’s episode of the podcast, brought to you by The Andersons, Gregg reviews the evolution of planter technology over his career and the important no-till planter lessons — and life lessons — he’s learned in the years since.

If you want to hear more about Sauder’s career-defining moments and lessons learned from his $250 million sale of Precision Planting to Monsanto, check out this episode of the “How We Did It Docuseries” spotlighting 360 Yield Center.

The Andersons Bio Reverse

No-Till Farmer podcast series is brought to you by The Andersons.

More from this series

A thoughtful, well-designed nutrient management program is essential to maximize crop productivity. Providing the right nutrients at the right time throughout the growing season is key to achieving high yields. The Andersons High Yield Programs make it easy to plan season-long nutrient programs for corn, soybeans, wheat and many specialty crops. Visit to get instant recommendations to improve your nutrient efficiency and yields.


Full Transcript

Michela Paukner:

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Podcast, brought to you by the Andersons. I'm Michaela Paukner, managing editor at No-Till Farmer. In today's episode of the podcast, we're bringing you no-till planter insights from one of the leaders in planter technology, Gregg Sauder, founder of 360 Yield Center and Precision Planting. In his presentation from the 2023 National No-Tillage Conference, Gregg reviews the evolution of planter technology over his career and the important no-till planter lessons and life lessons he's learned over the years.

Gregg Sauder:

I was thinking about this year for our family and I would say that over 50% of you in this room had the best year ever in farming when it comes to ROI. I know our family did. And then there's a large group of you that are maybe in the top five or six year that you've ever had, and then there's a group that had it tough. Maybe there's 5% of you here might have been really in a tough environment. It just flat out didn't rain.

And so no matter where you're at and what situation you're in, it raises two questions in my mind, whether it's the greatest year ever, how do we then treat our employees and those that make us what we are? And I think of my team; I got six young men that help us farm and they're as good as they get. And so we're going to reward them and we're going to reward them handedly.

And then I think of those times when it wasn't so good this year for those. How do you and I treat our families, our employees, and most of all the one we love the most, our wife, when things are really tough? Where do we turn to and how do we act and how do people, did they get to see the true Gregg at that time? You can see our family here, this is about 30 years ago. This is right at the start of Precision Planting. We have three little kids, we got seven total. Cindy's expecting our fourth and it was tough.

I'm raising hogs, I'm farming. We are out of a large farming corporation. We split up and I'm on my own. I'm buying my own equipment, trying to make ends meet. And I can remember at night laying in bed, and I'd wake up at three a.m. and I said, "We are not going to make it." Now for you that are young in here, we were paying 21% interest at the bank. And I knew what kind of year we had and I carried over $25,000, my line of credit. I'm really good friends the vice president of the bank, Brian and Brian said, "Gregg, you're doing fantastic." And I told Cindy, "If we're doing fantastic, I'd really hate to see average."

Why was I so stressed? Because I couldn't figure out how I was going to earn. It wasn't because I didn't have energy, it wasn't because I wasn't working 16-hour days between the hogs and the farm. I was giving my all. We were not creating income. What you see there on your left, that's where Precision Planting is sitting today. And so I turned to where you get help at three a.m. in the morning, and five years before this I converted over to the Lord and I said, "Lord, I don't know the answer, but I know that you do. Help me. I didn't marry Cindy to go into bankruptcy and I can't figure out how we're going to pay the bills this year."

And isn't it interesting a lot of us, so I say, "Wouldn't we like to see a miracle?" It would be fun if we could see a miracle because at that time we were also involved with Farm Journal. So Cindy and I, we were our test farm for Farm Journal and Ken Ferry and Charlene Fink and the editor and we were doing all these tests for three years and it took tremendous amount of effort and we had a lot of fun doing it. So we were in the cover of the magazine and we were getting lots of publicity.

And my phone rang one night in April early, two weeks after I prayed, continued to pray, my phone rings. There's a man on there and I could tell he's from Kentucky just by his voice, and he said, "Gregg, I've been reading the magazines and I've seen you and I'd like to come up and visit you." And I'm thinking, "Seriously, do you realize how intense we are at running our planters?" And this is now getting to be right at April, the first couple days of planting and he's called me three nights in a row and I just kept visiting with him. You treat everybody nice. And I was saying, finally asking, said, "Well, what did you do?" And he said, "My name's Eugene Keeton and I invented the finger-pickup."

I started to pay attention. I might not be smart, but I'm not stupid. And then he said, "And I also got the patent on the Kinze brush meter." I said, "Eugene, you ought to come up." There went my planting. I told Cindy, I said, "Honey, you might want to make some lunch." I said, "There's a couple coming up from Kentucky. It's going to be the second day of planning." And so I'm going and we're going hard to first day, second day I stop at 10 o'clock, I come home and in pulls a Mercedes, beautiful car for stretch of 12 inches, shaded windows. And out climbed Eugene and Evelyn Keeton.

And so we met and we talked and went in the kitchen. You know how farm wives are; she had a fantastic lunch. And I'm of course looking at my watch and trying to be friendly and visit and it got to three o'clock, and Eugene hasn't said a word about the invention. We're just talking about life, talking about the kids that are all around our feet. And finally at three o'clock, we go to the field and he pops open the trunk in that Mercedes and out he pulls an aircraft cable that's 12 inches long, three eighths of an inch in diameter on the bottom of it, bronze welded to it is a copper pipe, the shape of a seed trench.

And I looked at that, and my heart sank. I thought, "What is this?" He said, "Gregg, I invented a firmer, a seed firmer." I said, "Let's give it a go. How you think we ought to mount?" He said, "Well, I don't know." And I said, "Well, we got duct tape." And so we duct taped her to a row. He only brought out one. I started planting, of course, that whole time the planter was sitting there. I had a 20 row planter at that time, 20 inch, I built it myself in '93. Went to 20 inch corn and beans and so I went 500 feet. Ken Ferry showed up. We started digging and I said to Ken, "There's a saying in our family, you got to kiss a lot of frogs to meet a prince." And I said, "We just met a prince. This is amazing."

So we made that round. I come back, said to Eugene, "You don't happen to have any more of those in the trunk, do you?" He said, "I made five." I duct taped all five on and we planted that spring and I'll tell you, it was amazing. And this is Eugene right here and you see him and you can tell that this is an individual that was a real thinker. And so it started us off. At the meanwhile, I had started to, because of 20 inch corn, I couldn't make a corn meter work. We were in fingers at that time. We were turning the meters slower.

I was planting 35,000. They were skipping like crazy. It was defeating everything that we wanted. And so we got in the business of seed firmers and we got in the business of setting corn planters on the meter, trying to trick them. And I figured out we can do all kinds of things in figure meters to make them plant flat seed versus round seed. The amazing thing is this happened exactly at the same time that the seed cost per acre exploded because of GMO traits. And so corn went from $25 an acre to $125 an acre. We were in the sweet spot and it couldn't have been at a better time to have precision planting starting where we were saying to you, "We need to take your planter to another whole level."

And it was a dream of mine. No matter where you lived, I could take you 10 to 15 bushel better. And so it coincided with Pioneer. Had come and invited me out to Johnson, Iowa and I went out there and they told, "You've got a test stand?" I said, "Yeah, we got test stands and we know planters." And they said, "Well, we would like to hire you for five years to train 800 dealerships." I said, "I'm in." And so it exploded and it started to take off because the reality is this is what was out in the field. Train wrecks, skips and doubles, and Pioneer is smart enough, Jerry Wishman, their vice president said, "Gregg, 50% of the planters in the country are junk and our genetics are taking a hit for it." And I said, "We got to do better."

And so it was all about is how do we fine tune that? And so for the next 20 years, we just kept the evolution of just continuing to invent. I'll never forget the day Tim come out to the planter tractor and riding with me and he said, "Dad, I got a concept. We figured out how to see every seed in the planter. I can tell you if it's singulate, I can tell you what the spacing is to the next seed and I can tell you if it's a double or skip and I can do it on an iPad." I said, "Seriously?" I said, "Let's go."

And so we started working on it together and you can see the iPad there. He happens to have two 2020s. I like him because it says 99.7% singulation. That's where it should, that's where it's got to be to make it out. And the interesting thing is we took the industry with us. You can see the Deere cab here. So we made a move. About the fourth year in Precision Planting they sent their VP down, Deere did, and he said, "You're a problem for us." I said, "Good." I had no fear. I wasn't smart enough to have fear. And I said, "What do you think a planter should run?" He said, "Gregg, we designed planters to run at 10, at 90% accuracy. That's where we consider them to be their best."

I said, "I don't even understand you." I said, "You don't even live in the same paradigm." I said, "All my friends and I, we're not happy if it's 99." I'm always thankful, but I don't know if I'm ever satisfied. I think that's okay to be that way to drive on. That's why I'm so nervous about next year and we had our best year bar none because everything lined up, the weather lined up, the least amount of plant disease we've ever had. Yields are through the top, price was good, in pets were low. And so the first thing I say to Sydney is, "How are we going to repeat it? How are we going to do it again?"

And so those are the challenges that we run into. But I'm glad the industry has rapidly come along and they're working with us. So I would like to share how we think at 360 when we invent things and then I'd like to convert that over for you as a farmer. How can I challenge you to take next steps and to make changes? And so number one thing as 360 in precision planting is you have to think like a farmer.

I remember when Deere brought down engineers to meet with him one day in a conference room as a young man said, "I've been hired by Deere to radically redesign their finger-pickup because it was junk." And I said, "Really?" I said, "Are you a young farm guy?" "No." I said, "You've never run a planter before?" "No." I said, "Have you ever seen a finger-pickup before?" He said, "No, I've just been hired last week." I said, "Wow. How are you going to think like a farmer? How are you going to know what's the next step has to be?" What was his main problem? You got to understand the problem.

I tell Tim all the time, once we have a problem that's my job in the company as the farmer of the group, come in and just say, "This is driving me nuts. We've got to fix this." And once you understand the problem, then you start to come up with a solution. And it's very simple, the solution. He who tries the most things wins. And so we probably have nine 3D printers and we build plastic components like crazy, and overnight. I remember when they used to tell us our suppliers, "It'll be four weeks, Gregg, til we can get your mold built." And I'd be like, "Really? Four weeks? Do you realize where we live today?"

I was told last week on some hydraulic parts, we will get them to you in 14 months. If you'd have told me that COVID could have broke our supply chain in America, I'd have laughed at you in January. And then it hit and we broke it. I can't get tires, I can't get computer chips. And so we're going to change it. I'm not satisfied. We're going to figure it out. I looked at them in 14 months, I could build a factory myself. We'll build our own hydraulic parts. I'm not waiting that long. And so he who tries the most things wins.

And you can see us here, we're building chain roll. That's built out of plastic and we designed a test stand. We just feed plants into it and we'd check the residue and we'd say, "Is this doing what we want? Nope." We need to change something overnight, we'd build another one. First thing in the morning, we'd put it on the stand, we'd run it again and again. And we just continue to challenge it. And in any company, this is the first and most important thing. One good test equals a thousand good opinions.

You can't believe how much time we can waste of 10 engineers in a conference room arguing about whether we're doing the right thing or not. And old dad's always in the back. I said, "Guys, let's just go out and break it. How fast can we break it?" So you see the bullet coming in here. I've buried a concrete boulder, five feet deep, 16 inches wide. I'm hitting that going six mile an hour and we got the camera on it here. We're trying to see can we bust the wing off of that tillage point. What can we do to speed it up, to figure it out? What can we do to make a better product? This is something you need to think about a lot on the farm.

You and your team can sit in the farm shop and you can debate, debate, debate, or you can just go out and test. Number one thing I learned early on is trust your team. I had a motto when I hired somebody, are they better than I am? Are they smarter than I am? Because if they are, I want them. I want the best that I can find. And they make you who you are. That's why number one problem we're going to have is labor. We got it now. Getting people to come in, getting people to stay. We don't have that problem at 360 because we have a unique breed of employees. They're just driven to succeed and I love them; they're like family. But I can see where it's going in the future. Why do you think Deere's putting so much in? Robert is talking about autonomy.

Why do you think they're putting so much money in autonomous equipment? Because they know that you and I down the road are going to struggle to find the help. So we have to create that environment to be the best that it can be. So you say, "Okay, this is all about business. How am I doing as a farmer?" Well, first of all, you got to think like a corn plant. You should be able to put yourself in the field, thinking just like a corn plant. Now that sounds a little weird, but I can. I can literally think like a corn plant. I can look at a planter and what it's doing and saying, "If I was a corn seed, would I like this?" And so that's where it starts. And right after that you got to understand the problem. So you got to get in the field.

Corn will humble you. Probably best not to take your sweetheart with you when you go out in the field because they start to ask questions. "Well, why is this happening here? Why is that the problem?" And because you're telling them away. Well, the first time, we're going to look to make sure all the plants are uniform. I want the ear in the seventh lobe, node from the tops, you're counting the flag leaf one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven. If it's on the seventh leaf, that's the highest possible yield. If it's on the eighth, well, then there's something you and I did.

And so if she's with you say, "Well, how come there's some here on the eighth?" And then you get, it's hard to understand. So get out there. The bottom right, that's tar spot, 45 bushel there between a fungicide and knot. I was on pins and needles this year in our area. We were in the tar spot epic center last year. This year, not a lesion in sight due to the fact we didn't have any heavy rains. I got a half inch just when I needed it. And so those are things you see. We're checking on the upper right. We're checking the gas tank and that stock say, do we have enough nitrogen to finish the race? We're looking here at a very nice weed in the bottom called soybeans that they decide to pay us a lot for. Now I'm really excited about them.

And so those are all things that you're understanding the problem. Remember, he who tries the most things wins. What kind of research are you doing? You doing your own variety plot? You won't rent my farm if you're not. If I'm going to rent you 200 acres, you say, "No, Gregg, I just take the data that comes in from my channel, wiffles, Pioneer guy. You've got to get out. You've got to try. You've got to see.

We've got 28 hybrids there, two different populations. We know exactly every year there's 70 bushel from the bottom dog to the all star winner. Which one do you want to plant? I want this guy. The guy went over 300. Yeah, let's bring him into the family of genetics. The guy that went 243, not so concerned about him. That's something I would be concerned about. We've tried a lot of things over the years. This is the 300 acre field we're putting drip tape in. I was bound determined after 2012. This is 2014. 2013, I started putting in drip because we had a once in a generational drought in 2012 and I said to Cindy, "We can't afford to raise 50 bushel corn on a 250 bushel yield farm." And I said, "So let's figure it out."

So we're putting drip take here at 40 inch centers. We put some at 60, 18 inches deep. They set out of California, net film, that'll never work. You can't put drip take 18 inches deep. Yeah, you can. Water comes up twice as fast as it goes down with gravity. And so we've got 1100 acres of drip tape through our operation, we're working with it. And what it did is it drove 360 rain because you fix enough drip trait problems and we got them. When I say we, that's my boys. Dad doesn't go out, but you're down in your armpit at 18 inches fixing tape underneath a muddy thing in the spring. There are problems with it and so there's other answers.

One good test equals a thousand good opinions. I'm intrigued by inner cropping. Some of you guys are on your game and you've made it work. So Tim and I said, "Well, let's do 45 acres." And you can see it here. Did I make mistakes? Oh, yeah, but at least we're testing it. 40 inches a wheat, 40 inches of strip left. I'm putting two 20 inch rows of beans in there. I would change that. I would do 30 inches a wheat, leave a 30-inch strip and put one bean row in there. And then I did what I tell everybody else not to do. If you're going to try something, do it right. And you can see here we didn't have our combines in yet, so I borrowed this combine from cross. It's got duals on it.

Look where two of the outer duals are running right over the beans. That's a 35-foot draper head. I'd had to spend $9,600 to put those really nice shoes that push a bean plants down so you can cut the wheat. I said to Tim, "Dad can run a bean head. I'll just run it by hand. I'm not spending $9,600 to do one test." So I cut some tops of beans off. The wheat made way too much. The wheat went 76 bushel. It should have made about 65 to 60. The beans didn't make near enough. They should have made 55, they made 43. And so it wasn't a very good test because I was running over them or doing everything on the wrong side.

And then of course, trust your team. This is my farm team here. We're in a field looking behind a planter. The young guy with his back to you at the yellow T-shirts, my youngest son Andy, and the guy can flat out run a planter better than Dad can ever. He's my expert. And so we have two planters who run seed corn and I run the third on commercial and we have a really good time. Trust your team, and I'm going to reward these guys because I can't afford to lose them anywhere because they is what makes us. It's never Gregg, it's never you. It's always a team you got around you and that's just the main part of it.

So here we are and you can see this planter's in a no-till environment. You can see a little bit of a strip there and it begs the question, if I'm a corn seed, how happy am I? Am I in the sweet spot? Every seed I plant, I expect a 640% return and it's just the way it is. We're looking for ear count, we're looking for full kernel count. And of course you can say, well, Gregg, over the years there's been all kinds of inventions that help us move residue and you can see some of the best road cleaners in the industry, bar none, the Martins.

And then you look right here and you can see right in here, you see that little air cylinder? That's called Clean Sweep. That's the fastest product we've ever invented. In November I told Tim, remember the problem? I had a 36 row planter by then and I'd get out to adjust the row cleaners and of course I used starters so all the bolts were rusty. And I skin my knuckles really good one day; they were all bleeding. I got in the cab, I called up Tim and I said, "I'm done with this."

We're figuring out how to adjust row cleaners on the fly, pressure down and pressure up. In four months, they totally did that from whiteboard to finish and we were selling it in four months. That's what we call e- speed. Entrepreneur speed is radically different than corp speed, Caterpillar, Deere, case or corporation speed and they have to be. They have to have it right or you guys won't come back. You'll forgive us. I have been forgiven so many times for making mistakes by you guys. We're rapidly designing as fast as we can go to get it right, so there's lots of challenges there.

Michela Paukner:

I'd like to take a moment to thank our sponsor, the Andersons. A thoughtful, well-designed nutrient management program is essential to maximize crop productivity. Providing the right nutrients at the right time throughout the growing season is key to achieving high yields. The Andersons high yield programs make it easy to plant season long nutrient programs for corn, soybeans, wheat, and many specialty crops. Visit to get instant recommendations to improve your nutrient efficiency and yields. Now, let's get back to the conversation.

Gregg Sauder:

This is always a challenge. You saw that plant around in that environment and you can see this little plant here has got some real heartache and you can see the amount of residue that was there. In other words, a row cleaner didn't get ahold of it, didn't get it done. And as soon as we got rid of precision planting, I told Tim, "Really, this is exciting. Now we can do things that I've always wanted to do and one thing I always wanted to do is use a combine to accept the stage for next year."

So yeah, we got yield savers up above keeping kernels from coming out, but underneath as a meat and potatoes, I wanted to design a snapping roll that would do what? That would chain residue, leave it big but open up lots of openings. I well realize that there's what, nowadays in a corn on cornfield, that's $200 worth of fertilizer for you. If microbials, Mike and his team can digest it. How long does it take a normal plant to get to the bottom? Five years for a 10-foot-high corn plant to get totally for in your pocket, fertilizer takes five years. I wanted to do it in two. I wanted to speed it up.

And so we went out there and we said, "Okay, we're going to design a stalk roll that can get it done." And you can see the results here. This is the no-till field in Iowa and you can see these planted soybeans in it from last year's corn. Those are inter meshing rolls on the left from Deere, and on the right are the 360 chain rolls. What's the difference? It's just that we opened up that stalk to the microbials. The good guys, the biologicals could change it. And so those are how things that we think about. And so I like setting this stage in the fall for the following spring.

As we watch land prices go up, I get this question all the time from young farmers. Gregg, how do I increase my operation? Ground, we had what, a 40% increase in Tremont, Illinois? We had ground go over 20,000 just recently and I've watched that increase. And so if you're a young farmer in this group, you say, "Gregg, I just don't know how I'm going to grow. I've got two little kids, my wife and I are struggling." I'm not sure you need to own more ground. I'm thinking we just need to improve what you already have. And so I think a lot about drainage and I'm thinking about how do we eliminate all the water you see in the background? Look at the water standing in the row here.

And so we do a lot of pattern tiling and you look at it, I say, "Well, wait a minute, that costs something." Oh, yeah, that's $875 on a 30-foot centers. Now we went and bought our own little tile plow. That's us running it. I went up to Michigan and got one and you can see we've strung tile and those are three-quarter mile rows and we're bringing it all down here to a 15-inch smooth wall. It radically changed the way that farm would run and at times it's hard. This is this year.

We had 3,500 feet. We needed a main. We got 30 acres here in the far side of this field. It never raises a crop. And I share to Cindy, I said, "If ground's going for 18,000," I said, "I can gain 30 acres here if I can just figure out how to get a tile there." The problem was we had to go through 1,000 feet and that's how it had to be laid at 15 feet deep. So we put a sock on it. You can see the sock on the 18-inch smooth wall and we just dug a trench seven feet deep. That trencher goes eight feet. We got to route at 15 and so it's about setting the stage. Can we gain more ground? Can we do a better job? Those are all things that are there and things that we think about.

This gets my heart warm. This is the goal. You look at us taking water out here, we just laid this system. In fact, that run is only 1,000 feet through the field throughout this stage and I'm there that day as we're laying tile. And I went to the home end here and I saw the water pouring out of there of 1,000 feet. You understand, we had a wet farm and there's ways we can prove it. You say, "Well, Gregg, if it's 800 to $1000 an acre, will it pay?" Well, here's a side by side for you.

This is one of my dad's farms. Same soil type left and right. On the right, there's drainage. On the left, the center of that field, you can see the wet area. That's an actual yield. That's where it's at. You say, "Well, where did all the corn come from this year in Illinois?" Look at this 92 acre field. It's kind of long and narrow. It's got pattern tile. Do you see a difference from fence road to fence road? No. How many years when we run combines do we see, we talk about all the time, hill, valley and yield. 100 bushel is not uncommon in one pass. 205 and the lowest porous ground to 300, you've all seen it. This field, this year due to the environment, due to the tile, due to everything lined up in the good Lord, no more than 10 to 12 bushel swings in one whole pass.

You're looking at 290 bushel corn and it gets your motor running. So that's the goal. Will you say, well, how would I add more dollars to my farm this year? Well, to me it would start with early soybean plant. Well, how can you plant soybeans early if you don't have drainage? So that's why I put the tile first. When we talk about planting beans in central Illinois on April 1st, it's in the tiled fields that are already dry. You can't fool a soybean. You mud it in, in cold environment and you're going to wish that you planted 140 instead of 110,000. How low can you go? This is what Gregg does. I'm the guy that has to walk all the fields and so I'm walking them all and I'm counting, you know how this is exactly 12 inches and I'm counting them off. If I get to 55 plants, I let it alone.

I saw 55 plants this year yield. I knew exactly where they were and I replanted some of the field. I left 55 and it made 84 bushel at the 55,000. So it's got that capability. Something to think about in the future we need to simulate beans. My bean planter, I use the E set, not V set. I use an E set 60 cell because I'm a 20-inch corn, a bean planter. I'm driving seven, eight, not quite eight mile an hour and I'm planting 118,000. And that single disk can keep up. If you start to go faster or wider rows, then you're going to need a double cell, bean here and a bean there. And when they drop, they don't drop as equal. And so it's something to start thinking about.

So these guys, this is May 9th. They were planted on April 1st. May 9th at frost, you can see their no-tilled. You can see then, and I'm pretty nervous. They came out of it just fine. Why do we go after early beans? Because there's what, 15 bushel? And so you can see here, what am I early after? It's all about night length. The earlier you put them in, the longer the night. As we get to June 21st solstice, we get short nights. As the nights shorten up, it changes the protein in the leaf and they won't flower. The earlier they flower, and you can see my finger there is pointing right to the blossoms. That plant's no taller than what, a ballpoint pen? And you can see where the flowers are. What does flowering do?

Well, it creates pods right at the ground level. Look where my finger is. It's on the dirt level and the pods are touching my finger. When I say that we're going to raise you 15 more bushel year in and year out, it's due to more pods and lore. So you're probably going to need some type of a bean head that you got some kind of a tilt to so you can get them out. That's a real number. Family wants to go to Florida in March and Dad's getting nervous. I said, "Well, what you got? You got a house rented?" I said, "Well, when we going to get back?" They said March 25th. I said, "Oh, I can't go."

I said, "What if we're planting beans on March 25th?" They said, "Dad, you won't be planting beans on March 25th. I'm coming home. I'm not sitting on the beach if we can plant." And so this is what it's about. Now, if you're going to plant early, there's some rules. You're obviously going to have to seed treat, figure out the sudden death. Anytime we're below 60 degrees, soils, you are bringing the pathogen in. So figure out your seed treatment, doesn't have to be illegal. We use a five-way blend, some fungicide on it, some seed treatment on it, some inoculate on it, but this is real.

You say, "Well, Gregg, I only got one planter." Buy a second. 10 bushel beans at $13, $130 an acre, 1000 acres, you can afford to buy another planter. Either that or take the corn planter and plant the corn second. I'd do a week of beans, I'd put starter in the planter and then I'd plant my corn. Starter will get you five days quicker response out the gate so you could still do the bean planting. How about corn? You and I right now are starting to go soon. February 1st, corn starts to arrive at our seed house. Do you know what you own? Not the genetics. Do you know if the seed that you're going to get delivered has the ability to germinate in cold conditions?

And there's a major difference. When you look at this and you see those stunning plants and you see those that are missing and then you dig him up and here's how he looks. What happened to him? Well, he was planted in an environment of what? You can see here, he was put in on the 11th, 52 degrees for a high that day, 38 for a low. When does a corn plant take in its first water? When does a seed take its first drink? 36 hours. The temperature of that water makes a huge difference. 55 and up on the temperature, you're all right. 50 degrees, you got a problem.

And so we'll show you what day should they plant it. On the 13th. If you look ahead, you say, "Well, Gregg, the soil temperature of the day he planted, that night was 41." Yeah, but look at the next several days and look at the daytime temperatures. As a rule of thumb, and my farm is soil temperatures are 10 degrees behind the air temperature. If it's 76, the soil temperature is 66. And so it's all about getting it done in a timely manner, but it's also about getting it out.

So we test everything. You can see I opened the pro box, I've dumped in that number, I'm sending it to the seed lab. All I'm asking for is a score, a saturated cold germ score. Can a sheriff me back where it's at? I found this corn from a friend. I've never seen a 44% in my life. When he told me he had it, I said, "I want to buy it," because I wanted to put out a test. That cold score, 44% means if and how do they test it at the lab? They put it in their refrigerator for seven days at 50 degrees in wet soil and then they bring it out and warm it up to 80 and they see how many grow out of 200. And only 44% did.

Look at that other hybrid, 99%. Which one are you going to start with? If you guys have this knowledge, this is what I call professional farmers. When you take the 13 hybrids you're going to plant and you've got them all lined up and you know which ones are Eskimos and which ones are Florida beach bums. That corn there at 44% is not a dog. You do not call Fred your best friend and take that corn back to him. I would never do that. Look what happened when we planted it in 60 degree soils.

We came back and planted it. We intentionally planted when the soil was 48 degrees and then we wait till it was 60. The 99% had what, a bushel difference. The 44% had 66 bushel difference. Where did that come from? Right here, warm planting. 31,000 germinated, cold planting, 25,000. So it's things I worry about, the things that keep me up at night. Position it for success. You and I can complain about the weather, we can complain about the Chicago Board of Trade, but you and I need to look at our own heart and say what are the things that we can do different?

Probably one of the greatest challenge that we've worked with is how do we close? I love these little Milwaukee leaf blowers. We carry them in the planter tractor. We're out checking this plot and we're blowing a loose soil off the top. And what do we see? We see an open V, don't we? And there's a concern there. And this plot here, it's got some of the latest. On the left, that's a two stage closing system of airbags. The same way here on the right, two different scenarios. Wet soil, look at here where you see this gap, that's going to be a problem. It closed here, it's opened here.

What's going to happen here? Sunlight's going to get in there and immediately that spike is going to unfurl and leaf, and now it's not going to come up. On this side, on really dry conditions, look how much dry dirt's around that guy. And so Tim and I jumped in. I said, "Tim, I've been thinking for years there's got to be a way to close the trench from the bottom up. In other words, how can we change and how can we come in here and design something that's very simple that closes from the bottom up?" I want to take all the settings out of it. I want to make it standard that anytime we're working with it, it can figure it out.

So this is 360 wave and it's got a design, it's cutting off the bottom three quarters. It's enveloping that wet soil over the top. Now we can take any type of a closing wheels on top, spike cast, furrow, cruiser, rubber, and all we have to do is close that top gently. And so we've come out with a closing system that's got all kinds of features in it. It's spring-loaded, so if you hit stones, it comes up over the top. It doesn't take the row unit up. It's got a pitch in it so when you start to turn, you start to turn right, it's not going to swing the starter fertilizer that you're putting on over the top of the seed.

And so I'm excited about something this simple, no-till, it flat out performs. And so I'm saying, what does it take to put this thing to the test? And so you can see it here. We went out, we got all the different closing systems. We started to replicate this plot and we said, "Is there a way that we can replicate it?" So the base air control is just the Keaton seed firmer and rubber tires. This is a Deere planter, an eight row research planter, and you can follow it down. And the numbers get big and you say, "Well, wait a minute. How'd you get the 14 bushel?" Two more plants. Every plant, every ear is seven bushel to you.

And so it's all about how do we get more up? So those are things that we really concentrate on. I love being able to just look at what the problems are in the field and say how do we solve it and what is the way that we can make that different? And that brings us to this part of the slides. What's next steps? My motor gets running and I look at that. That's 320 bushel corn. And so around our kitchen table, there's lots of kids at home and everybody works for Cindy and I. And so it's supper time, it's just a great environment. And Tim poses this question to me. He says, "Dad, how do we take our farm to the next level?"

I said, "What do you mean, Tim?" He goes, "What's it take for our farm to average 300?" I said, "Ooh, that's a big step." I said, "That's a big step." I said, "Without question, Tim, it's water. We're going to have to figure out how to put water on because without water you go nowhere." Like I told you, 2012, oh, I can't tell you. Dad's out riding with me. At that time, I had 18 row corn heads because we're in 20s. We went 500 feet and not one ear come in. He said, "I've never rode in a combine before didn't make any noise." I said, "Thanks, Dad. Why don't you go out and see Mom?" And I just like, I needed that right then. Literally zero yield, 500 feet, beautiful plants, no ear.

I had 2.3 inches of rain from planting to harvest in that field. You can't raise corn. The problem was yet in June when I was side dressing in on June 12th, I had my fingers crossed. I was praying daily to the Lord saying, "If it would just rain, I think we'd be okay." And it never did. And so I had all my inputs in. I think that field ended up making 62 bushel, 115 acre field. So I told Tim, I said, "If we're going to go to the next level, we've got to be able to eliminate this." This is this year in central Illinois where I told you the weather was perfect. We had one week of 95, 96 degrees. And you can say, "Well, Gregg, if you're going to have a drought or if they really get stressed, this is the ideal time to have it."

I'm telling you, I never want my corn to have a bad day. Soybeans, radically different. Run a rock, run the roller over them, burn them with Cobra, do whatever you want to stress them and they'll yield more. Not here. And so the next steps for us was how do we figure this out? And so we said, "Well, we should be able to figure out autonomous. We know we want a system that can go wherever the planter went, no matter what direction it went." After we worked with wide drop as much as we have, I said, "We don't need to water the whole playing field. We just need to put a band," which immediate lets us use half the water. That's putting on a half inch of water per acre. What's the corn plant seeing? One inch.

And this gets my motor running. I said, "If we can start." And so our goal is we're going to run this machine every week. I'm going to run it around the clock. It takes five and a half days to cover 160 acres of one machine. That's it lives in that field. So every week it's going to put on, let's just say six tenths, pick imaginary number. And it's going to keep what, really happy corn. And so that was the goal. And so we said, "Well, it's got to have the ability to have intelligence." The planter we're going to talk about this afternoon in our session, we'll get in depth. It's got to have the ability to follow wherever the planter went and you can see here what it's doing, and this will make you smile. In a drought, this here will get you going. Oops. It's got it sideways. You'll just have to pretend like you had to turn your head.

And you can see we're watering right around the root system itself. Number one challenge that I told our engineering team, I went to the whiteboard. Gregg loves to go there and draw pictures. I said two things. Low water volume required. Not everybody can get 1,000 gallon a minute. There's a lot of growers in here. You might be able to get 200 to 150. I said, "That's our guy and no matter what shape the field is, we're going to water it. No longer give me, well, this quarter mile pivot arm has to be in a perfect field." I said, "We're not going to worry about that."

I said, "It's got to be able to water anything that the planter can plant. If the planter stops at the railroad tracks and then turns around, comes back, we're going to go up the railroad track, stop, and we're going to go right back." So wherever we go, we're laying hose and on the way back we pick it up. That's where all the science is. How do you manage a hose? Probably the thing that made us the most excited and we've lit the country up is manure.

So here we're applying at a large dairy in Ohio. He's applying right here, 6,000 gallon of lagoon number two, not one, lagoon number two, dairy manure. His bill at this farm is a million dollars a year for manure management. He saw rain and he said, "I need 10 rain units." And I smiled and said, "You can have one on trial." And so we've lit the world up. I could probably work for five years selling rain units and never, ever get to where a guy just puts water and nitrogen on. The manure industry has just gone crazy. Hogs, sow centers, dairies, beef feed lots with large lagoons. And so the future is exciting.

I love looking at environmental. This will be the first time that Gregg gets invited to the Sahara Club. I'm excited about it because this is going to change the way we farm. So in conclusion, it's this. I started out saying a lot of us would like to see a miracle and Gregg was blessed. And Eugene Keeton called shortly after I started praying to the Lord and thankfully I had enough wisdom that I let him come. It had been easy just to say I'm too busy, I'm too important. I don't have time in the middle of planting season. But we take those opportunities, don't we?

This picture here shows where we are in life and so we got a winding road, don't we, through this field. And we can't see over the hill. But this, I will assure you, when you and I get to this point in our life where we really want to know what's over the hill, we fall on our knees and we seek our God and we say, "Show me where we're going to go and what it's going to look like." My promise is this. And when we walk with the Lord and we treat our employees and our wives and our families at the very best of our abilities and we work in the community, good things will come to you and they will happen. And I wish you the very, very best in the coming year in 2023.

They said maybe we'd take some questions. I'm sure glad to. You can ask me anything. I'll try to answer it. Maybe they have in their app some I don't know. Yes, sir. I'll repeat it.

Speaker 3:

So I got some 360 bandits a couple years back [inaudible 00:44:43] essential. Like not getting water just [inaudible 00:44:46]. Not getting a lot of depth on the 360 bandits. Anything we can do to adjust that?

Gregg Sauder:

So good question. So the question was on his 360 bandits and they were designed that we're going to go shallow on nitrogen off of the side, shallow. We know that water does all the heavy lifting for us. The minute you and I go into those heavy cover crops and we say we're going to now take a disc and force it in an inch and a half, you realize your planter is now going to come out of the ground. I worked all my life on it.

A planter unit weighs 200 pounds and it takes another 400 pounds just to get that opening disc in. And so you're going to run out. So we said starting, can we address this scenario? And it's a challenge. Do we do cover crops perfectly? No, we don't. Will you see some on top? You will. It's the greatest challenge we got. And so Tim and I are working all the time on it saying what's the next step? What do we do different to solve that? I know this, that your nitrogen that's a quarter inch deep and occasionally on top, still going to make it down in, in that April May timeframe. But I'm not going to raise my hand and say give me a star for getting nitrogen an inch deep in that kind of a heavy residue.

Right before I came in, I was working with an Ohio family and they showed me it's exciting, green cover crop. It's all the legumes and the clovers and the grass literally this tall, solid green heavy, 16 row Deere planter running through it. Of course, it's been sprayed the day after planting or right before and that melts away in two weeks. But I mean to tell you, that'll make your motor run. You talk about soil tilt. And he said, "I'm bringing 16 rows of bandits on." And I just be honest with you, my heart took a little bit of a squeeze and I said, "Let's try it first to make sure you're going to like it because that's our greatest challenge." That's a really good question and we're working on it. I don't have an answer today for you. Appreciate it. Thanks.

Speaker 4:

What technology do you recommend to track varieties and yields?

Gregg Sauder:

Well, obviously we run the 2020 yield sense and I like it because there's so many different ways that field view tracks wherever you plant, whatever variety it is. And then you can go in and you can start to do analysis with all that at the end and that really means a lot.

So we have two varieties in there. I go to my summary screen and I can see that Dekalb made this many bushel and the Pioneer made this many bushel and you can start to get a feel for it. And it knows when the planter's blended, then it just throws out in a different file. So those are the things I like. I like doing a really good job at the planter of noting which soybean variety, which corn variety we got. And when we put plots out, you see that variety plot. Then or any time of testing we do with row cleaners and closing wheels, we just name that as a variety. Then we have it always documented.

So the precision system works really well. I think the Deere system's got a lot of potential. Those just are the two that I work with. So those are where I'd recommend that would be good.

Speaker 5:

We've done a lot of work with different hybrids and varieties on the planter. One issue we kind of run into is combines are getting wider. How can we measure, I guess, yield within the width of a combine or have you looked at trying to measure that down to the row? What's this yield? Because we think we have pinch row issues and stuff like that. Have you looked at or done anything regarding measuring yield on a finer tune?

Gregg Sauder:

Yeah. Well, it's a good question, have you heard it or not. How do we know when we're splitting planters with varieties and the different things that happen? It's a challenge. Those yield monitors, you're only grabbing about every 20 seconds of data, so you're always behind about a 22nd window of data. And like I said, when you're harvesting right over that blend, that's going to be into a different file and it's a challenge.

I'm starting to back off. I got some landowners that we custom plant for and we pull into a 75 acre field and he's got six varieties or something. I'm like, "what are you doing?" I mean, Andy gets pretty grim. He calls me and says, "Dad, we're putting four varieties in 70 acres. What's going on?" And I said, "Yeah, we need to take care of that." So that's a challenge.

I would say this. So putting it in the variety plot and so what we do is we plant down at 33,500, 33,500. We plant back at 37,500. We also have a corn bean line in there so there's corn on beans and corn on corn, and we harvest all those separate and then I run the combine. I give everything a score. This year, tornado went across that field and then remarkable difference between hybrids and we gave everything a score. What percentage was down, what percentage was up. Pretty soon you start to separate the men from the boys. I can tell you this, when the corn went down it was 38 to 43 bushel less, if it's on the ground.

You can't afford to plant it. You can say, "Well, Gregg, you had a 90 mile an hour." It flipped a pivot in that field. You can say, "Well, we had a tornado here." It doesn't matter. Some stood. And so I'm intrigued by short statured hybrids and those things that come out down the future. So I like which way you're thinking. I would check it into a controlled environment in a variety plot that you plant the best day of the year and you bring your three best guys to help you put it in, so you know you got it in right.

You say, "Well, I'm going to lose a whole day of planting." So? The data you're going to get out of that's going to drive next year's ROI. So I would put it in a plot type environment and really challenge it right next to each other. Then you're going to know.

Speaker 6:

We're going to try some relay crop beans in the wheat this year. We're up in New York state, so we don't have a long growing season for double crop. I was very intrigued to buy the wheat and bean relay. What would you recommend for a skip and what were you currently using?

Gregg Sauder:

So when you're going to come back in behind wheat and you're going to double crop beans, correct?

Speaker 6:

I'm going to try to relay the plant.

Gregg Sauder:

You're going to try to relay like we were doing there?

Speaker 6:


Gregg Sauder:

Well, what I would change there, we put the wheat too wide. We were 40 inches. I would shrink it down to 30. This is what I would say if you're going to do that, the next step for me, if I'm going to do that, I'm going to build me a bar that does the wheat and the beans, the same tractor, the same bar, the same seeding units so that I can get it right. That was a disaster.

We had RTK in the drill. We had RTK in the planter tractor. Nothing lined up perfectly and it was just craziness. Sometimes I was only putting the bean row four inches away from wheat this tall. I knew the beans were going to get stunted there. So I would go with a 30-inch row. I would do 30 inches, leave 30 inches bare. I would build me a 20 or 24 foot bar and I would put all those row units on it, and I would use the same one in the fall to plant the wheat. And then I would turn right around this spring. And I think you're going to have success.

I know it works. There's too many guys in Indiana and Michigan hitting the ball out of the park. So it's just a time thing for us. Next step for me is I'm going to build a planter that's going to do both. That's how I would take it.

Speaker 7:

Gregg, how much yield would it be worth to control the orientation of each seed of corn?

Gregg Sauder:

Well, that's a great question. We've studied it. We've hand planted it. I've worked with a company that's got a meter and an air system that does that. It depends some on the variety, and it's all about leaf. Are we have the leaves going across the row, or there are some leaves that are going this way? And the research that I saw, we had 4% of them still the leaves were turned this way, but majority of them are like this. And it was about five to six bushel.

I'll just tell you this, so if we can get spike up and spike down, that means the most. What happened this year didn't matter. Why didn't it matter this year if you were spiked down? Because it was 90 degrees. How long did it take corn to come up? Five days at Gregg's farm. Was spike down, spike up an issue? No. Was it an issue the year before? Oh, yeah. It didn't ear. It was too far behind by the time the spike come down, made it all the way around in really cold, damp, tough, growing conditions. So I think there's a future there. Just tell me how much you're going to charge me.

I'll probably be planting beans when it's really that cold. I'm going to wait for it to warm up. And I saw this year how we can get a lot of corn planted in a day's time if we need to. So we just don't go to bed. So I like conditions right. You just cannot, you can say all the inventions in the world. If the soil's not right, you're playing with a loaded deck. You're just going to struggle. So I think there's a future there saying, can we orientate the seeds so it's spike up? And can we get all the leaves going the right direction? It'd be fun to see.

Michela Paukner:

Thanks to Gregg Sauder for today's conversation. A full transcript and video of this episode are available at Many thanks to The Andersons for helping to make this No-Till Podcast series possible. From all of us here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Michaela Paukner. Thanks for listening.