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3rd seed box on John Deere 999 planter had multiple uses

Tom J. Bechman mystery tool
WHAT AM I? And who made me? Bonus points if you know where the manufacturer was located.
Forgotten Tech: See if you can correctly identify this tool from days gone by.

The April/May issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer, and this article online, showed the John Deere 999 planter, popular in the first half of the 20th century. The challenge was figuring out why the planter had three boxes that all looked like seed boxes.

The planter, on display at the Hancock County Agricultural Museum near Britt, Iowa, was purchased in 1926 by a local farmer and pulled with draft horses. The medium-sized box was for corn or soybeans. The larger box was for fertilizer. But what about that third box? Historians say it was often used to seed peas or sorghum.

Tom J. BechmanJohn Deere 999 planter

VERSATILE PLANTER: Readers report that there were multiple ways to use the third box on this once-popular John Deere 999 planter.

Some readers had their own stories. Here is a sampling:

Neil Barclay. This Crawfordsville, Ind., farmer says his dad added sorghum seed in that small box when he was planting corn for silage. At one time, mixing a taller version of sorghum with corn to add tonnage for silage was common.

Rex Brock. Brock’s dad had a horse-drawn planter like this one, but without the third box, on his farm near Bourbon, Ind. Brock correctly reported that it could be used for sorghum or sudangrass. His dad converted his horse-drawn planter to tractor-drawn when he bought his first tractor, a Farmall H, in 1950.

Bill Maple. Maple, Kokomo, Ind., says his dad put soybeans in the small box to plant with corn for livestock feed. Once they got a corn picker in 1937, they stopped that practice.

Steve Ritter. This Norman Station, Ind., farmer says the third box could be used for pumpkins or squash. His grandfather and uncles planted pumpkins in their cornfields, although with a different planter. Sometimes they mixed pumpkin seed with fertilizer in fertilizer boxes.

Jerry Perkins. This LaGrange County, Ind., conservation enthusiast says his dad used a Case planter with three boxes in the 1940s. He put soybeans in the third box to plant with corn for silage. However, before they chopped silage, they let sheep graze on soybean leaves. He says soybean pods and stalks added protein to the silage.

The winner is …

Barclay won the drawing for the gift card. Here’s your chance to win a gift card for correctly answering this month’s Forgotten Tech challenge.

Can you identify how the tool pictured at the beginning of this article was used, and who made it? Where was the company that made it located? The company was known for making forage equipment, but it didn’t always use a consistent paint scheme on various tools it manufactured.

You might also want to take a stab at how this unit was powered. If anyone has a unit like it or a newer model parked in a shed, that would be interesting. Send pictures!

Send your answer, complete with your mailing address, to [email protected]; write to: P.O. Box 247, Franklin, IN 46131; or call 317-431-8766. One entry from all the correct guesses will be drawn at random for a gift card.

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