Downtime is not something Bruce Bishop tolerates. "I work very hard to keep my machinery as simple as possible so there are fewer things to slow me down,” he says.
The McComb, Ohio, farmer's quest for minimal breakdowns and reduced weight inspired him to build two fully mounted 24-row, 30" machines—a corn planter and fertilizer applicator—that float over the field, with nary a lift-assist wheel or carrying wheel for support.
The machines won first prize in the planter and chemical handling categories of Farm Journal's "I Built the Best Contest.” The victories mark Bishop's seventh and eighth category wins.
"Tires are one more thing to maintain, and if you have to replace one it slows you down,” Bishop says. "They make a machine heavier, and they leave tracks.” Eliminating the weight of wheels improves fuel efficiency, he adds, and a lighter machine may let you get back into fields sooner following a rain.
Bishop's corn planter weighs only 11,900 lb. "Compaction-wise, it's as if you're driving the tractor across the field with nothing behind it,” he says.
Mounting the planter units (which make up half the weight of the planter) as close as possible to the tractor eliminated the need for lift-assist or carrying wheels. To facilitate close mounting, Bishop placed the two bars of the planter's double frame 4' apart instead of the usual 1'. "That let me mount the planter units on the front bar,” he says.
Putting the toolbars 4' apart reduced stress on the second bar. So Bishop was able to use lighter ¼"-wall 4"x4" steel tubing, rather than 3⁄8"-wall 7"x7" tubing, for the second toolbar. He used ¼"-wall 7"x7" tubing, rather than 3⁄8"-wall, for the outer 25' on each wing of the front toolbar.
No wheels. With the weight of the units close to the tractor and lighter steel in the toolbars, "the planter units can hold up the wings of the planter,” Bishop says. "So the only wheel traffic comes from the 24" tracks on my 765 Cat tractor—one set of tracks every 60'.
"Building the frame from aluminum, rather than steel, would have saved 3,000 lb.,” Bishop notes. "But it would have made construction much more complicated, and the planter would not have lasted as long.”
- February 2010