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Fit for Soybeans

00:00AM Oct 03, 2008

Starting with a Case IH 950 16-row, 30" front-fold planter, Randy and Lee Pieper built a 31-row, 15" machine by incorporating units from two Case IH 800 planters. Because they retained the original 950's platform, the planter can still be used for 30" rows if needed.

The old adage for entrepreneurial success "find a need and fill it” is fitting for brothers Randy and Lee Pieper of Donnellson, Iowa, who have been custom-crafting their own soybean planters since 1976.
The brothers farm with Lee's son, Jesse. Randy's sons, Scott and Cody, have full-time jobs, but they help out when possible.

The Piepers' current soybean planter plants thirty-one 15" rows with two 30" skip rows for wheel tracks. It works in no-till or conventional seedbeds and covers 60 acres to a fill.

The machine started as a Case IH 950 16-row, 30" front-fold planter. To get more hoppers and planting units, the brothers bought two old Case IH 800 planters for $1,000 apiece. They extended the toolbar to make room for the outside planting units while preserving the two skip rows.

The Piepers left the Case IH 950's planting units in their original location. That way, the planter can be used for 30" corn, if necessary. They added 15
additional units, building brackets to offset them 10" for residue clearance.

To make room for two more hoppers, the Piepers moved the transmission from underneath the original hoppers to the front of the toolbar. Since there are now almost twice as many rows, they reduced the speed of the transmission by half, so they can still use the tables in the operator's manual to set population rates. They also moved the carrying wheels from the rear of the toolbar to the front.

Further adjustments. There was no room for the driveshaft in its usual position, so the Piepers built a new one across the front of the hoppers. For three of the hoppers, chains run from the driveshaft to a shaft extending out the side of the hopper. Because the fourth hopper is mounted next to a hinge in the toolbar, there was no room to run a shaft out to the side, so the brothers cut a slot for the drive chain in the metal shielding at the base of the hopper.

To accommodate the additional seed hoses, they raised the inner hoppers 8". They mounted the outer hoppers at the same height to line up with the new driveshaft. The inner hoppers are mounted on the main toolbar and the outer ones on the toolbar wings so the planter can flex over terraces.

Extra power. Although the Piepers could have powered the additional hoppers from their tractor's hydraulic system, the brothers chose instead to replace the planter's hydraulic pump with a larger one and add an equalizer. To pull the planter, the Piepers also beefed up the hitch on their tractor by bolting an additional drawbar underneath the original one.

The final touch was building a catwalk behind the hoppers. One monitor (from the Case IH 950) handles the original 16 rows, and a second one (from one of the Case IH 800s) handles the other 15.

"The planter works great, and it was much cheaper than buying a new one,” Randy says. "The only thing we would change would be to use 900 Series planter units instead of 800 Series because it's easier to set depth and downpressure on the 900 units.”

A smaller machine, which can plant eight 30" rows or fifteen 15" rows, specializes in small fields, end rows, point rows, refuges and replanting.
Once the 31-row planter was assembled, the Piepers thought it would be nice to have a smaller planter for small fields, end rows, point rows and refuges. So they kept right on building to capture the convenience.

For $1,500, the brothers bought a 12-row, 30" end-transport Case IH 800 planter. They added four planting units left over from other projects to make a pull-type machine that can plant eight 30" corn rows or fifteen 15" bean rows.

They mounted the new units on a second toolbar salvaged from a cultivator. The toolbars are connected by strips of 8"x½" flat iron, with channel iron welded on for reinforcement. Because the extra iron created negative tongue weight, the brothers raised the hoppers 8" and moved them 6" forward.

"The small planter is helpful,” Randy says. "With our regular corn planter, a Case IH 1200 16-row, it takes longer to unfold than it does to plant a small field. The small machine is nice for replanting; we run over less corn when we replant with the smaller planter.”

A Tailor-Made Sprayer?
Randy and Lee Pieper's engineering skills aren't limited to planters. They also converted a used tandem-axle 45' manual-fold, 1,000-gal. sprayer, purchased for $2,500, into an 80' single-axle rig.

The sprayer tracks in the same tramlines left by the farmers' 40' and 20' skip-row soybean planters (see adjacent story). "We rarely use the sprayer's foam markers,” Randy notes.

"The tandem wheels that came on the sprayer were not good for turning,” Randy says. He and Lee fashioned a new axle and purchased a set of used 14.9x46 tires. Finding the right position for the axle, where it would provide the correct amount of tongue weight, was a process of trial and error.

The Piepers purchased an 80' hydraulically folding boom for $6,000. They had to lengthen the tongue so the longer wings wouldn't hit the tractor cab windows when they turned. Then, they converted the boom from being a vertical-fold to being a front-fold.

"That makes it easier to raise the boom to go over terraces,” Randy explains. "In its front-fold configuration, the boom would begin to fold when all we wanted to do was raise it up.”

Finally, the brothers moved the valves and controls to a more accessible location, from underneath the frame to in front of the tank.

The Piepers operate the sprayer with a five-section Raven controller.
"We're very happy with the sprayer,” Randy says. "It does everything a much more expensive factory unit could do.”

You can e-mail Darrell Smith at