We received a bumper crop of entries for the 2012 "I Built the Best" contest. The results revealed two remarkable achievements: Bruce Bishop of McComb, Ohio, captured his 10th "I Built the Best" victory by winning the sprayer category and three farmers won two categories each: Dave Richardson, who lives in Ottawa, Kan., and works for Claerhout Farms of Princeton, Kan.; Joel Armistead of Adairville, Ky.; and Kevin Clark of Kiowa, Kan.
Richardson’s and Armistead’s nurse trailers were co-winners of the chemical handling category. Richardson’s lime and fertilizer spreader won the fertilizer handling category, and Armistead’s planter won the planter category. Clark won the service truck category and his house trailer (used for custom harvesting) won the miscellaneous category.
Other winners include Dale Jaster of Farmdale, Ohio, in the drill/air seeder category; Craig Stewart of Yorkville, Ill., in the seed handling category; Kelly McNichols of Burr Oak, Kan., in the technology category; and Ron Brooks of Waupaca, Wis., in the shop category.
You can read about Armistead’s planter, Stewart’s seed tender and Bishop’s sprayer on the following pages. We’ll share the details of the other winning entries in future issues.
Each "I Built the Best" winner receives $500. See details on the 2013 contest.
The future of planting technology is at work on Joel Armistead’s farm near Adairville, Ky. Armistead has assembled a planter that varies seed, in-row fertilizer and nitrogen according to the productive capacity of the soil.
"On one 37-acre field, varying the rates saved us $25 per acre, compared with applying everything at the maximum rate as I used to do," says Armistead, who farms with his father, Raymond, and his son Zach.
|The planter built by Joel Armistead varies the rate of seed, in-row fertilizer and nitrogen according to management zone maps. The maps incorporate information from soil maps, fertility tests and yield history.
He assembled the system on a Blu-Jet LandTracker implement caddy. A front-mounted toolbar carries Spike-Wheel nitrogen injectors. The wheels place nitrogen 3" deep and 7" beside each 30" row. (Actual placement is closer than 7" because the spikes expel fertilizer from the side rather than the tip, propelling it toward the row, Armistead says.)
The rear of the caddy carries Armistead’s Kinze 2100 mounted planter, operated by a Rawson variable-rate hydraulic drive. The planter is equipped with Precision Planting seed meters and the company’s BullsEye seed tubes.
The planter frame also carries 1,000 gal. of 32% UAN (urea-ammonium nitrate) solution. Tanks on Armistead’s tractor carry another 600 gal.
Range of rates. Armistead varies his planting rate from 24,000 to 41,000 seeds per acre. Each planter unit is controlled by a Tru Count air clutch. "We vary the nitrogen rate from 32 gal. to 40 gal. per acre to match the corn population," he says.
The implement caddy carries two 150-gal. tanks of row fertilizer, applied in the trench under the seed. Armistead can vary the rate from zero to 10 gal. per acre.
"Even where the soil tests are high for phosphorus and potassium, applying just a couple gallons in the row seems to make a difference because the nutrients are readily available early in the season," Armistead says.
Row fertilizer and seed turn on and off simultaneously. "The same air pressure that disengages the row clutches to shut off the seed actuates Richway Airpinch valves that shut off the fertilizer," Armistead explains.
"SureFire Ag Systems put the row-fertilizer system together for me. It uses a two-pump tower with two flow meters and controllers to variable-rate each of two different row fertilizer products.
"After measuring the product, it sends it to a mixing chamber, and from there to Wilger flow monitors. Finally, it goes through the pinch valves, check valves and stainless steel tubes, made by Totally Tubular, to the seed trench."
The rate of all products is controlled by an Ag Leader Insight monitor. It also controls the row clutches and functions as the planter monitor.
"I auto-steer the tractor with an AutoFarm A5 RTK GPS unit and do everything else with the Insight monitor," Armistead says. "So there are just two displays in the cab. Since I put this unit together, it has become possible to do everything with just one display."
The system operates from management zone maps, incorporating details from soil maps, fertility tests and yield history. Armistead tests soil on 21⁄2-acre grids every four years.
Variable-rate technology has helped Armistead reduce his nitrogen rate to 0.7 lb. to 0.8 lb. of applied nitrogen per anticipated bushel of corn. "Variable-rate planting reduces our seed use by 5% to 10%," he adds.
To top it off, the three generations of Armisteads are seeing increased yield in all management zones—where they apply more seed and fertilizer and where they apply less.
Although the aptly named SpikeWheel nitrogen injectors aren’t involved in the variable-rate process, Armistead considers them another example of state-of-the-art technology. "They place nitrogen at a constant depth," he says. "I never could keep coulters uniform.
"We think we get less fertilizer tie-up and less soil erosion than with coulter-knife units," Armistead adds. As no-till farmers, the family doesn’t want to have to close ditches or rills with tillage tools.
Like many farmers, "we jumped into precision farming early with yield monitors," Armistead says. "We wound up with a pile of maps but no equipment to use the information. We dropped out of precision farming for a while, thought about what we wanted and looked for ways to do it."
Now the research is paying off.
Seed Tender Speeds Planter Fills
Thanks to Craig Stewart’s creativity, an old 400-bu. center-discharge gravity wagon has found new life as a seed tender for him and his sons Bob and Brad of Yorkville, Ill.
The wagon was made with two compartments. Stewart divided the compartments into quarters, and each of the eight compartments holds one box of seed corn.
|A seed tender made by Craig Stewart from an old gravity wagon holds eight bulk seed boxes for a total of 400 bu.
Conversion required raising the wagon box to make room for an additional hopper, sliding gates
and a 4" tube that runs across the bottom. A lever opens the sliding gate for the compartment the operator wants to draw seed from. The seed falls through a hopper into the tube, and a portable pneumatic conveyor transfers it to the planter.
There are two main hoppers, each serving four compartments. A rollover tarp protects the seed.
The pneumatic unit, or grain vac, sits on a platform at the rear of the tender. "Because the grain vac connects to the planter with a rubber hose, it gives us flexibility in positioning the tender," Stewart says. "It lets us park the tender on the road instead of having to enter the field."
After planting season, the Stewarts remove the grain vac and use it to clean up grain bins. The bottom of each compartment had to be designed so seed would slide downward into the tube. "Getting the angle right sounds difficult, but after we laid the hopper out in our shop, it wasn’t too hard to figure out," Stewart says.
Modifying the bottoms left some compartments slightly larger than others. The Stewarts use the larger compartments to hold larger seed sizes.
"Hauling several hybrids or varieties is helpful when we have planters running in different fields," Stewart says.
A railing on the side of the tender carries 24 insecticide SmartBoxes. A hinged lid folds over to hold them in place and protect them from the elements. It also serves as a walkway.
The design of the tender requires lifting boxes of seed fairly high in order to fill it, Stewart observes. Except for that, he can’t think of anything he’d change.
Even so, Stewart already is thinking about the next tender he’ll build. "It will have eight bulk seed boxes set over small hoppers with a vacuum tube underneath," he says.
Lightweight, Versatile Sprayer
The design of Bruce Bishop’s fully-mounted, lightweight sprayer is similar to his planters and fertilizer applicator. But with a 120' boom, it covers twice as much area.
|The triangular design used for the wings of Bruce Bishop’s sprayer reduces weight. The outer 30' are made from stainless steel to resist corrosion.
It also can spray as narrow as 60', by unfolding only the two inner boom segments. "It’s an important feature for small fields and maintaining controlled traffic with my 60' planters," Bishop says.
When he starts a field, Bishop sprays a 90' swath, using 30' of boom on one side and 60' on the other. That sets him up to follow the tramways of his planters and fertilizer applicator.
Shaving weight. To lighten the rig’s footprint, Bishop used 16"×8", 3⁄8"-wall rectangular tubing for the main toolbar. "It’s lighter than a normal double toolbar but still plenty strong," he says. "Minimizing weight reduces the risk of compaction and lets me spray in wetter conditions."
Bishop shaved additional weight by using a triangular design for the boom wings (similar to his planters and fertilizer applicator), which required less steel, he explains.
The inner portions of the wings are made of 2"×2" tubular steel. The outermost 30' section of each wing is made of thin-wall tubing to reduce weight. There, Bishop used stainless-steel tubing to resist corrosion. The hinge that folds the outer 30' section functions as a breakaway hinge if the boom hits an obstacle.
Mounting the boom as close to the tractor as possible reduces bouncing of the wings, for a smoother ride. To absorb shock and further reduce bouncing, Bishop designed an accumulator—a 2"-bore hydraulic cylinder with a spring on the end—for the lift cylinder that holds up the wings.
Bishop mounted the sprayer on a Cat 755 tractor, which carries a 1,000-gal. tank on the rear and a
400-gal. tank on the front. "Mounting the rear tank high and forward, above the three-point hitch and close to the cab, helps balance the tractor," he says.
Air induction nozzles reduce drift. Bishop mounted them on 15" centers. "That’s closer than normal to provide better coverage," he says. "I still get good coverage even if one nozzle plugs up." He mounted an extra nozzle on the end to ensure complete coverage of field edges.
A Raven controller lets Bishop spray with any of five boom segments.
Narrow folding. For transport, the boom wings rotate upward and then fold forward, just like the wings of Bishop’s planters and fertilizer applicator. The folded booms rest directly over the tractor’s tracks, so nothing extends past the side of the tractor, making a compact unit for travel.
After several rainy springs, Bishop replaced the 18" tracks on his tractor with 25" tracks for better flotation. To accommodate the wider tracks, he leaves two 33" rows with his 30" corn planter.
Using the wider tracks, Bishop prefers to steer the tractor manually, even though it is equipped with RTK GPS auto-guidance. He sprays at 14 mph, covering about 100 acres per hour.
Building the sprayer, which stores on a stand, cost about $16,000.
- February 2012