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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

In The Shop: The Cost Of Being Cheap

Mar 03, 2012

Please don't take offense, but some farmers are just plain cheap. Not economical. Not frugal. Cheap. As in, they're so interested in saving a penny on planter maintenance and repair they lose the potential to make a dollar at harvest.

Here's a quote from the story, "Prep For Perfect Planting " found elsewhere on Farm Journal's home page:  "It may take $400 per row to go through an older 12-row planter and replace worn disk openers, gauge wheel arms and components other than the seed meter, " says (Dustin) Blunier, (marketing communications manager for Precision Planting). "That's $4,800 in parts. If you plant 500 acres of corn that maintenance costs $9.60 an acre. At today's prices, that's less than 2 bushels of corn spent to maintain the planter to potentially gain 20 bushels at harvest, if the corn yields 200 bushels per acre."

Blunier is referring to studies done at Purdue University that indicate reduced plant population at harvest due to misplanted seed in the spring can reduce yields by 15 to 20 bushels per acre.

Maintaining planters to keep them in showroom condition is expensive and borderline frustrating. Parts have to be replaced even though they're not broken. Sometimes the difference between worn-out and "new" is only fractions of an inch. You end up with a pile of used parts that really don't look much different from the new parts you just installed, and you wonder if you're really going to get your money back from the investment.

Any planter, no matter how worn or abused, will plant seeds and give you something to harvest. Even the junkiest, most worn-out, poorly adjusted planter can put 28,000 or 30,000 seeds per acre in the ground, or at least most of them. They may vary in depth by an inch or more, and have spacing that ranges from hill-drop close to a foot apart, but by golly, they'll be "planted." The problem is, it's not enough to toss seeds in the dirt and cross your fingers that most of them grow an ear.

I tell customers that their greatest yield potential is when they're sitting on the endrows of an unplanted field, with the planter full of seed. At that point they're looking at 200, maybe 250 bushels per acre, because they haven't done anything to reduce the potential of every seed to grow an optimum ear. Once they drop the planter and start planting, "potential" evaporates and reality sets in because every misplaced seed reduces final yield.

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