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Central-fill conundrum: 20 bushels of corn per acre is a lot to sacrificeCentral-fill conundrum: 20 bushels of corn per acre is a lot to sacrifice

Look for soil compaction solutions for central-fill planters, or resort to accepting potential corn yield loss

Tom Bechman 1

April 22, 2015

2 Min Read

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.


Related: Planter preparation checklist: These 15 recommendations can pay dividends

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.

Related: How to reduce soil compaction while planting

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.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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