The creative spark burns bright on America’s farms, as evidenced by Farm Journal’s long-running "I Built the Best" contest. On Bruce Bishop’s farm near McComb, Ohio, the spark doesn’t merely burn—it blazes. For the second straight year, Bishop topped the planters category of the contest, with a 60'15" soybean planter that needs no carrying wheels. Even more remarkable, Bishop’s victory marks his ninth category win.
Other 2011 winners include Brent Bergquist of Lohrville, Iowa, whose compact but fully equipped nurse trailer won the chemical handling category; Brandon Kitchel of Richmond, Ind., whose innovative combine-mounted stalk roller took the harvesting equipment category; Marlin Langeland of Coopersville, Mich., whose versatile truck-mounted seed tender won the seed handling category; and John Cotherman of Gore, Okla., whose barbed wire roller topped the livestock category.
You’ll read about Bishop and Langeland’s winning entries here and the others in future issues. Each "I Built the Best" winner receives $500. See below for how to enter your idea.
Light-Stepping Soybean Planter
In 2010, Bruce Bishop of McComb, Ohio, won in the planters category of the "I Built the Best" contest with his light-stepping corn planter, which has no gauge wheels or carrying wheels. This year, his soybean planter, which is similar but different, took top honors.
Besides looking for accurate seed placement, Bishop wants his planters to be simple in design. He figures the less complicated they are, the fewer things can break down and delay field work. He also wants them to be lightweight.
Wheels are one complication Bishop likes to eliminate. "They not only require maintenance but add weight," he says. "A lighter machine requires less fuel, and it may get you back into the field faster following a rain."
To make his 48-row, 15" soybean planter as light as possible, Bishop used some of the same techniques that worked for his corn planter. He set the two toolbars 3½' apart instead of the typical 1'. "That let me mount the planter units on the front bar," he explains.
Setting the toolbars farther apart reduced stress on the second bar, allowing Bishop to use lighter, ¼"-wall, 4" tubing for the bar. "In terms of weight, spacing the toolbars farther apart required only about half as much steel," he says.
Bishop used heavier ½"-wall, 7" tubing only on the middle 12' of the front toolbar. The wings of the front toolbar are ½"-wall, 4" tubing.
The triangular design of the wing framework also required less steel to build, Bishop adds.
The 60' planter weighs 16,500 lb., or about 20,000 lb. when the tank is loaded with 70 bu. of seed, which isn’t much more than a 20' drill, Bishop says.
Active hydraulic down pressure. "Under many conditions, this planter might not have enough weight to no-till," Bishop says. "But it works for us because we have been following a controlled traffic pattern for a number of years, so our soil has good structure."
To help the units penetrate, Bishop uses active hydraulic down pressure to transfer weight from the main frame and tank of the planter to the wings.
Bishop farms mostly Hoytville clay soil. He subsoils every two years, following soybeans. He no-tills all his soybeans and wheat.
Steered by RTK GPS auto-guidance, the tractor that carries Bishop’s soybean planter runs in the same tracks as the tractors that carry his corn planter, nitrogen applicator and sprayer. That lets Bishop place every soybean row 7½" from the old corn row.
"The planting units never touch the old corn rows," Bishop explains. "If they hit corn stalks, they bounce and you get uneven planting depth."
Seed is carried in a John Deere tank, which is filled with an auger made by Market Farm Equipment. It is metered through 24 John Deere CCS (Central Commodity System) seed meters. Air for the delivery system is supplied by a Crary centrifugal fan, while a Rawson hydraulic drive controls the planting rate.
Each meter feeds two rows, by way of a Y-divider in the air line. Bishop monitors every other row, using a Vanguard monitor.
Planting units are John Deere 90 Series no-till drill openers. Bishop replaced the original cast-iron closing wheels with Martin Spading-Closing wheels.
For travel, the planter folds to 16'. It uses the same system as Bishop’s corn planter, requiring only four hydraulic cylinders and four hinge points; the wings rotate upward, and then forward. Minimizing the number of cylinders leaves the outside 25' of each wing free of hydraulic lines.
When folded, no part of the planter extends above the tractor cab. The only parts wider than the tractor tracks are 6½' above the ground, where they will clear any car Bishop meets on the road. The planter stores on a stand, leaving room to park machinery underneath.
This winning rig lets Bishop plant his soybean crop with a 255-hp MT765 Caterpillar tractor, running at 1,300 rpm.
"I needed only ¼ gal. of diesel per acre to plant soybeans this past spring," he says.
Efficient Truck-Mounted Seed Tender
When you plant corn for grain and for silage, and perhaps plant soybeans and even wheat at the same time, you need a seed tender that helps keep things organized. But that was just one of Marlin Langeland’s objectives when he set out to design his seed tender.
Marlin farms with his brother Merle and help from his retired father, Lester, near Coopersville, Mich. His tender won first place in the seed handling category of the "I Built the Best" contest.
"I wanted my tender mounted on a truck, not a trailer, so it would be easier to get around in fields," Langeland says. "I wanted to deliver seed with an air system. With an air delivery hose, I can jump over the hitch and reach the entire planter without having to move the tender."
Reasonable cost would be nice, too, Langeland figured. "I didn’t want to spend a lot of money for something we would only use two weeks of the year," he says.
Langeland’s seed tender meets all those goals. It features four compartments, each of which can hold a bulk bag or box of seed. There’s also a scale.
The tender was assembled for about $10,000 (mostly for the air delivery system, steel for the tanks and a tarpaulin).
Langeland sketched a seed tank with four compartments. Then he let the professionals at Phil Brown’s welding shop in Conklin, Mich., cut the metal.
"That way, all I had to do was lay out the pieces and start welding," Langeland says. "If something didn’t line up quite right, I just shifted it around until it did, because I knew it had been cut properly."
Four compartments. The tender’s hopper contains three dividers, creating four seed compartments. It is made from 3⁄16" steel—a little heavier than 10-gauge steel, Langeland points out. A lip around the top of the hopper and each divider adds strength.
Under each compartment is a cone-shaped bottom, with the sides sloping at 45°. "By using a 45° angle instead of 40°, I was able to use the leftover steel for the next piece, rather than waste it," Langeland says.
He made outlets from sections of 4" auger tubing, welded into the sloping bottom of each compartment. To fill a planter, he inserts the 3" vacuum line of his Bean Hustler air delivery system. "The seed flows just fine," he says.
Langeland sized his compartments to match a bulk seed box. The cone-shaped bottom under each compartment provided some margin for error. As it turned out, he says, "if I built another tender, I probably could make the sides a foot shorter. But I wanted to build in extra capacity to make sure seed never runs over into another compartment."
In the truck cab, Langeland mounted a scale salvaged from a mixer wagon. He incorporated load cells into the framework that holds the seed tank on the bed of his truck. "I needed a scale because there is no monitor for planting wheat," he says. "The scale isn’t accurate to a tenth of a pound, but it gives me a good idea that I’m planting the correct rate."
Rounding out the tender are steps made from pipe inside the hoppers, in case they ever need maintenance, and a tarpaulin to protect seed from the elements.
Langeland set his air delivery unit on a platform at the rear of the hopper. He added a wooden rack on the side of the truck to carry bags of insecticide.
"When I designed the tender, I didn’t realize how bene-ficial multiple compartments would turn out to be," Langeland says. "But they paid off immediately.
"The first day I used the tender, I put a bag of silage corn in one compartment. It rained, and we weren’t able to plant that corn for several weeks. By the time we were able to plant again, I had picked up another 80 acres, which were going to soybeans. So I put beans in another compartment and serviced both planters at the same time."
"I Built the Best"
Share your ideas and win $500. Entries are judged in the following 15 categories:
- chemical handling
- drills/air seeders
- fertilizer handling
- harvesting equipment
- hay tools
- seed handling
- service trucks
- shop feature
- tillage tools
Mail a photo or sketch and a brief description of your idea to Darrell Smith, Farm Journal,
P.O. Box 1188, Johnston, IA 50131-9421. Category winners receive $500 when their idea appears in Farm Journal. Any idea that is published receives $100. All winners are entered to win a trip to Welding University. Send in your entry today!