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Have your agronomic questions answered by a Farm Journal agronomist. E-mail us directly at, and we’ll respond on this blog to provide an interactive dialogue.

Agronomists Shed Light on Compaction from Central-fill Planters

May 26, 2010

Question: Our two neighboring operations are looking at purchasing a new corn planter and/or a new bean planter together to take advantage of some economies of scale. The corn planter would probably be a 16-row central fill and the soy planter would be a split row (16/32). We're concerned about the compaction that comes over the center of the planter in the case of the central fill and over the whole planter in the case of the split row. We're on fairly heavy clay soils that can compact easily. Is there a significant issue with these larger planters, or is the impact minimized with wider operating width? 


Answer: There are many advantages to running a central-fill planter, but your suspicion of the compaction these planters can cause is merited. This past year, yield losses of up to 60 bu. were verified in the rows behind the bulk bins. Central-fill planters intensify the compaction of the rows behind the seed bins. This is worse in heavy clay soils and conventional tillage and anytime you plant in wet conditions. Those who no-till or strip-till could see less of an impact. So far, individual row hoppers have been shown to be the most even way to distribute weight across the planter toolbar.


If you run a central-fill planter, here are some recommendations:

  • Be conscious of the weight issue and avoid planting in wet conditions.
  • If you plant in compromised conditions, run as light as possible.
  • Rethink adding a starter tank in a position that could increase weight on the same rows as the central bins.
  • Talk with your manufacturer about features to transfer weight across the wings.
  • Consider outfitting your planter with central-fill and individual seed hoppers. In wet conditions, you could switch back to using the individual bins for each row.

We’ve launched this blog as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter setup, scouting and other questions to


Previous Q&A with our Agronomists:

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