(Editor’s note: Turn to the Winter 2016 edition of Conservation Tillage Guide, Page 66, to see additional responses from fellow no-tillers.)
By No-Till Farmer Editors
Although the makers of farm equipment have engineers specifically charged to design and build no-till planters that efficiently place seed in the ground at the optimum depth, in a variety of field conditions, it’s difficult to find a no-tiller running a truly “bone stock” OEM planter.
The infinite variability of individual farms and growing conditions has fueled a booming industry in aftermarket attachments designed to help no-tillers and strip-tillers boost the efficiency of an assembly-line planter.
Knowing planters are perhaps the most important machine on a no-tiller’s farm, No-Till Farmer editors recently surveyed readers about the upgrades they’ve made to their planters, and why — and what they might have in mind for this growing season.
I have a 16/32-row Kinze 3600 ASD Kinze planter I bought in 2013 with no wiring harness, seed tubes, corn meters or monitor. I installed a Precision Planting’s SeedSense 20/20 monitor and air clutches from my previous planter. I also installed the company’s WaveVision seed tubes and V-set vacuum meters.
I only got spring down pressure for the row units, since I was thinking of going with a hydraulic downforce system in the future. Then last year, I bought Precision Planting’s FieldView option and a few more weigh pins to study, more thoroughly, my planter’s down pressure.
This winter I am going to install DeltaForce and vDrive on all corn rows, as well as v-Drives and meters on my soybean rows. I hope to get better seed placement, as well as not having chains to drive my meters.
— David Pelz, Tiskilwa, Ill.
Building Retirement Planter
In 2007 I bought a new 12-row, 3400 Kinze planter with 20-inch spacings and used it up through last year. I wanted to upgrade but ran into a problem: Today, neither Kinze, nor any of the other major brands, build 12-row planters on 20-inch spacings, and I certainly couldn’t justify a 40- or 60-foot machine.
So I stripped the frame of the Kinze row units and drives and kept the markers. I mounted new White 9000 units with air metering and 3-bushel hoppers on the machine. Also, we installed Yetter SharkTooth floating row cleaners, Thompson closing wheels with lighter springs and toe-out wedges, along with Graham electric drives controlled by a new Ag Leader Integra system.
This year I added two 150-gallon tanks and SureFire fertilizer starter package — also connected through the Ag Leader system.
I came up with all these ideas on my own, but the only thing that made it work were the “tech” people at my local dealership. Mechanically I did most all of the work myself, but electrically it was completely them.
As a result of my upgrades I get better seed placement and emergence, easier control of plant population and fertilizer rates, automatic row shut-off, more efficient fertilizer placement, and, in the long run, more profit and a newer planter to take me to my retirement.
— Marcus and Joanne Reinke, Concordia, Mo.
We had a John Deere 7000 for many years but this past winter we bought a Deere 7200 6RN Conservation planter.
It was absolutely phenomenal! We had VERY uniform stands this year. The row cleaners cleaned a path and helped the row unit to run much smoothly than we ever had before. The gauge wheel pivot kit from R K Products is absolutely the best because it totally does away with the wear points, so you get very consistent settings.
The Furrow Cruisers from Copperhead Ag also worked very well in closing the trench in all conditions this season, but the Schlagels didn’t perform when we got into heavy clay. We want to take them off and try the Pro Stitch next season.
— Joe Amstutz, Orrville, OH
Keeping Residue in Check
We have a Horsch-Anderson 40-15 drill. I installed Yetter coulters in front of the openers and found that cutting the soil helped from throwing dirt and residue away from the opener. I plant at 4½ to 5 mph.
I believe this reduced the amount of dirt being thrown out by 50%. This drill has disc levelers on it so they bring back residue over the seed row.
— Mark Greene, Asotin, Wash.
We have a 6-row Deere 1750 and are converting to 100% no-till and cover crops on 265 acres. We added Precision Planting’s 20/20 SeedSense monitor and DeltaForce system. We planted into the previous year’s soybean stubble with a oat/radish cover crop for the first time.
The goal was to be more precise on down force and planting-depth control.It was difficult to quantify the ROI with record rainfall this spring. However, emergence was just as good as conventionally tilled soil. I’m convinced that cover crops with corn-soybean rotation is the gateway to continuous no-till.
— Jack Gable, Peru, Ind.
We have a Case IH 1200 planter that we’ve owned for 4 years. Our updates include hydraulic drives for variable-rate planting; a trash-whipper and nose coulter in front of the seed unit, and a single-blade dry-fertilizer boot and coulter.
With the variable-rate seeding I am seeing a better in-field average, and with the coulter and trash whippers I believe we’re getting better, more even emergence.
— Kerry Lynn, Thamesville, Ontario
A couple of years ago, we finally traded our 40-year-old Deere 7000 for a 20-year-old Deere 7200.
This “new” planter had vacuum and liquid fertilizer tanks. We then added the Precision Planting’s 20/20 monitor with CleanSweep technology and Yetter’s treader pneumatic row cleaners; eSet units; Keeton seed firmers; chain closers, half with spike closing wheels; a 12-volt pop-up fertilizer kit (in addition to the 2-by-2-inch starter with a squeeze pump), Precision Planting’s AirForce with lift and down pressure, as well as FieldView; RTK guidance and reduced-diameter gauge wheels.
After a year, we added a Totally Tubular pop-up system because the Keetons seemed to plug frequently. We add humics, some molasses and fulvics in our pop-up and starter. We also put granular humates through our insecticide boxes at 20 pounds an acre right in the row, since we put liquid insecticide with our pop-up.
All in all, we now have real-time analysis of our seed population and spacing, and control of our down pressure. We strip-till all of acres in 30-inch rows and have seen better stands, more uniform emergence and better yields. We can confidently plant into reduced tillage but really like the strips due to a warmer little mound of “fall plowing.” We’ve considered adding a little more nitrogen (N) with the planter, but it’s a three-ring circus just with what we have going on already.
— Larry Tombaugh, Streator, Ill.
I have a 6-year-old, 24-row Deere 1770NT, and last summer and fall changed from Precision Planting’s AirForce to DeltaForce, and changed from their eSet to electric vSet meters, and also added their SpeedTube and two 200-gallon wing fertilizer tanks from Ag Synergy Co.
I’m hoping for better depth control and better seed spacing, plus I want to cover more acres in an hour.
— Lowell Filbrun, Fletcher, Ohio
I use a Case IH 900 trailing planter, which I’ve owned for 20 years. My land came out of CRP in fall 2014 and I decided to plant a crop for the first time in 12 years.
I completely rebuilt the row units. My agronomist told me I would be lacking in phosphate for the 2015 growing season, especially for soybeans. You don’t dare put 10-34-0 on the seed with soybeans so I started looking for a way to placed in a 2-by-2-inch system with my planter. I decided to use a stainless-steel arrangement developed by Shaffert Mfg. that put the fertilizer just behind my covering discs. I also installed serrated covering discs to help get through the thatch.
We had ample moisture all season long, so I don’t know if it was the moisture only, but I think the 10 gallons of 10-34-0 also helped me to achieve a 55-bushel-per-acre yield coming out of the CRP helped.
— Mike Kane, Valparaiso, Neb.
I have a dairy farm in France with my parents on 247 acres, including 74 acres grassland, 74 acres silage corn, 74 acres winter soft wheat, 12 acres winter barley, 12 acres alfalfa seed and 12 acres sweet sorghum.
We have heavy clay and fresh loam soils and we’re non-irrigated. We work in minimum tillage and include covers crops anywhere we can before spring and winter crops.
For a planter we use an old four-row, 1987 Deere 7300. In 2007 I bought the 2967-007 Yetter kit that includes four down-force springs, residue managers and a 25-wave coulter. We also added spiked rubber closing wheels instead of the normal rubber, and I added a Horsch seed firmer with a house made medium and Martin reduced-inner-diameter gauge wheels.
In springs, we prepare the seedbed about 1.2 inches deep and plant corn 2.4 inches deep. That's why we need down force, to improve seed placement. But in a wet year, I use spike closing wheels to close the seed trench to use less downforce.
With all these changes, the old planter has become very versatile and we can use it in minimum tillage or to no-till sorghum into cover crops.
My next change will be adding a flat coulter and removing the 25-wave. Also, I plan to build a new planter with narrower rows and electrical shutdown of the rows. After my own plots, I feel the narrower rows will improve yields and decrease the need for herbicides.
— Nicolas Bornert, France
I own a four-row, 1991 White 6700 planter set to 30-inch spacings. The original planter was a 6-row on 38-inch spacings but I had to cut it down to a 4-row because the planter wouldn’t fit through the gates. I changed the planter to 30-inch rows because I could keep the distance between the seeds on the rows the same but increase the number of seeds I could plant per acre.
I want to change the planter back to a 6-row planter because it will save me time in the field and I can still get through the gates on the farm. I’ve owned this planter for 11 years now.
I originally bought the planter because I was trying to conserve moisture in the spring time for planting in the years that were dry, so I started out with no improvements or modifications. After 2 years, I started researching different V-style dual covering wheels and applying fertilizer at the same time. I had issues the previous year because the ground was a little wet and I had a green, grazed ryegrass cover crop still growing when I planted. The double rubber factory covering wheels were not closing the trench correctly so my research began.
I wanted a closing wheel that didn’t bring up moist soil for in dry years, nor aerate the soil to dry it out in the same dry years. We have more dry years than moisture-excessive years where I am planting here in central Texas. I decided to use Dawn Curvetine closing wheels because they seemed to fit the bill for keeping the moisture in the ground but yet close the trench in all conditions.
In the seasons that followed the wheels worked wonderful and closed the trench in all conditions, including two extremely wet years. For fertilizer, I conducted some research regarding 2-by-2-inch systems vs. broadcast fertilizer and found that you could apply more fertilizer where it was needed and even save on fertilizer cost vs. broadcast spreading the fertilizer.
Also, who wants to fertilize the weeds in the middle of the furrow? I was on a budget, so I managed to find some used Yetter 2996 coulters for sale for a really good price and I bought them. I thought I could put them in the front, but when I checked into it further I could only put them in the rear because the drive shaft is below the 7-by-7-inch bar. I then made a square tube frame that attached the coulters to frame units. The first year showed that I made the right decision because I could tell exactly where the fertilizer stopped on the ends.
In the beginning, I also added Yetter row cleaners the clear the path in front of the planter but I found that they didn’t really do much because I really don’t have a lot of residue after the cover crops because the residue disappears so quickly.
I removed the Yetter coulters this past year because I wasn’t getting consistent depth on the fertilizer placement — and, I moved to 30-inch rows, which also didn’t allow me to use the Yetters due to clearance between the rows. So I added some used Martin UMO-100 fertilizer openers and they seem to be doing a good job, but I have only used them one season.
This year I plan on adding popup fertilizer to the planter to help the corn plants to get off to a strong start. Our soil is always a little cold when I plant so I’m hoping the fertilizer will give it that initial boost it needs.
— Ordway Boriack, Giddings, Texas
Adjusting On the Go
We own a Deere 1770 CCS planter that is 7 years old. We have air bags for downforce and don’t run any automatic down-force controls.
We’re running Martin floating row cleaners with treaders and added the CleanSweep air system to raise and lower the row cleaners. This has been very helpful running no-till in our conditions, as it allows us to adjust amount of cleaning needed on the go. We’re killing all of our cover crop 3-4 weeks prior to planting so we’re running into dead material.
The other change we made 3 years ago was to take fertilizer off of planter and we have 150 pounds per acre of ammonium sulfate broadcast 3-4 weeks prior to planting. The AMS is very stable, and with our manure applications over the years our soil tests are plentiful. The stable N in the AMS seems to work very well for us.
Like most others, we added auto-steer several years ago and with no-till it really helps being able to place rows in certain relationship to last year’s rows. We feel this is a big help with our no-till system.
— Gordon and Jeff Smiley, Greensburg, Ind.
Saving More Money
I use a 12-row Deere 1770NT planter and have added Precision Planting’s 20/20 SeedSense monitor to measure downforce. It also allows for prescription seed-rate maps to change population automatically to vary with soil type. The planter also has row shutoff, only every 6 rows, to keep from over-planting on end rows and point rows, which saves seed.
The planter is also equipped with Keeton seed firmers to make good seed-to-soil contact. I hope in the future to add air bags to help with having too much down pressure in certain field conditions.
— Steven Carlson, Monticello, Ind.