April 22, 2015
One farmer told a neighbor that he knows he might have some soil compaction issues over the rows where his central-fill planter has most of its weight – in the center under the seed tanks. The problem is that he has lots of acres to cover and needs the convenience of central-fill planter. With a 24-row planter, most agronomists say that could put about four rows per pass at risk.
How much risk? Both reps from Precision Planting and Bill Lehmkuhl, a farmer and agronomist and crops consultant in east-central Ohio, says the "risk" has been documented in some cases, by measuring different rows for yield, at up to 20 or more bushels of corn per acre.
Remember the weight: If you're using a central-fill planter, do what you can to minimize the impact of extra weight over the center rows.
What does that mean at $3.50 per bushel corn? One-sixth of your acres are making 20 bushels per acre fewer than they should. That's nearly $12 an acre averaged over an entire field. If you grow 2,000 acres of corn, that's $24,000 per year in lost income. Is the timeliness and convenience of a central-fill planter worth that much lost potential gross revenue?
Another farmer told his neighbor that he resolves the problem by only filling his central-fill planter tanks half-full with seed. If you have a central-fill planter and conditions are marginal, that could help reduce the effects on soil compaction on the center rows where you carry the most weight.
But the farmer shook his head after his neighbor left. If you're only filling the seed tanks half full, he thought, then you're negating the convenience and timeliness of not having to stop as often.
Companies tell us they are working on solutions to help spread a central-fill planter's weight across the toolbar. No one seems to have a perfect answer yet.
For now it may be a choice you have to make – cover more acres and accept some potential corn yield loss due to soil compaction, or switch to a planter with individual row units that takes more time to fill and covers fewer acres between fill-ups.
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