The Expense of Planting Perfectly
Mar 19, 2017
Every spring I run into a similar situation. I've yet to find a satisfactory way to resolve the problem.
Let's say somebody wants to farm 40 acres, or 60 acres, or some other "small" piece of land. Maybe it's the family farm and they want to carry on the tradition. Maybe it's a guy who works a job in town, and is trying to get a toe-hold on farming full-time. I've even had a middle-aged guy who was successful enough as a businessman that he thought it would be fun to be a farmer (Why is the theme song from "Green Acres" playing in my head…?)
Anyway, they buy, borrow or scavenge a 4- or 6-row planter and ask me to check it over and get it ready to plant. Invariably the planter needs new disk openers, a couple of bearings, repairs to the marker arm system and a fair amount of welding. Add in the cost of checking the seed monitor system and display, and the cost of mounting and wiring the seed monitor display in the (very) used tractor that the guy has pulling the planter, and it's very easy to come up with a bill that can range from $1000 to $2000 for parts and labor. That's a pretty steep investment for a guy who just wants to plant less than 100 acres with a planter that he got for $1200 on an internet machinery site.
Of course, that's making the planter as reliable and accurate as I can, with a goal of providing this entrepreneur the proverbial "picket fence" stand of corn. But can the guy really afford the cost of a picket fence stand of corn? Would it be more profitable for him to just get a decent stand at a reasonable cost?
I know from experience that if his stand of corn doesn't match the neighbor's stand of corn, that I'm going to get the blame for the poor performance of the planter. But the neighbor has a near-new 24-row and spends hundreds of dollars per row each winter to ensure he gets perfect planting on his 3,000 acres.
There is no "right" answer to this dilemma. Perfection is expensive. I guess it comes down to how "perfect" a stand a farmer can afford.