How we still upgraded to the newest planter technology for half the cost of a new planter
Our farm bought a brand new 24 row, 3-bushel box planter in 2012. During the first few seasons of using our new planter, our farm was transitioning to no-till and implementing cover crops. We needed a way to make our planter more adaptable to varying conditions and crops since we grow corn, soybeans and various specialty crops. A few years later, in 2015, we had our first experience with Precision Planting products.
Enter CleanSweep. No more screw adjust row cleaners refusing to stay adjusted. These floating row cleaners adjusted all at once from the cab which made moving from tillage to no-till and planting into cover crops a much simpler process. Add in DeltaForce and we quickly realized we should have been running the old air bags deflated when the 3-bushel boxes were full. Ever since we added those two products the applied downforce map has been my go-to on my 20|20 screen. I tend to leave it up all the time because it tells some interesting tales and spots problems quickly.
Fast forward to 2019. We decided it was time to try out electric seed meters and why not go to a central fill planter while we’re at it. We grow a few specialty crops such as waxy corn, popcorn and seed beans, which require frequent and thorough planter cleanouts. Pulling out two dozen 3-bushel boxes several times a year to get to the seed plates was getting old. We knew we could gain a good amount of springtime efficiency with open access to the seed plates while adding the convenience of central fill.
We priced new planters from our local OEM equipment dealer and a custom build on a new toolbar from a Precision Planting dealer. Roughly $350,000 for either option wasn’t a pill we were quite ready to swallow. I started shopping around for used planters that fit our specifications and what we ended up with was a planter three years older than the one we already owned.
I learned about Schlipf Precision Ag while searching for used planters. Rich Schlipf is a Precision Planting Premier Dealer who keeps an inventory of planters on hand to upgrade for customers. He had a 2009 planter, the same model as ours but with central fill. We liked CleanSweep and DeltaForce so obviously those were going on our “new” planter, too. We wanted vSet and vDrive as well, so they were added to the list. When the cost estimate came in, we were pleasantly surprised.
The 2009 retrofit with all the Precision Planting products we wanted, an upgrade to the Gen 3 20|20 monitor, every wear part rebuilt, and a few other odds and ends, totaled just under $180,000. Quite a savings over the new builds! And we were still getting all the same technology we would have chosen for a brand-new planter.
But there was one more thing that made the decision very easy. Since our 2012 planter was equipped with some Precision Planting parts I don’t think our local equipment dealer really knew how to price it on trade. Well, Schlipf offered to trade with us, too. The price they offered for our 2012 was $24,000 higher than we were offered elsewhere. Deal sealed at that point! We were getting a great planter with the latest technology for about half the cost of new.
We just finished our fifth season planting with the “new to us” planter. Filling the bulk central fill tanks has made life easier. We could clean out the rows and meters without taking any boxes off the row units. With our old planter we had small and large corn plates, soybean plates and popcorn plates. Now we just have a corn plate and a bean plate from Precision Planting.
On our previous planter, I would go through all our corn and popcorn seed tags and match the seed sizes to a vacuum chart in the manual and make myself a spreadsheet to carry along in the tractor to adjust accordingly. Now, the same vacuum setting works for all our crops and seed sizes. The vSet and vDrive have simplified all of those processes greatly.
Now I like to say I have 24 individual planters rather than one 24 row planter. Every row can do its own thing, if necessary, when it comes to seeding and downforce. vDrive has made our section control perfectly accurate by reducing overlap. Before we could only run two rates across the planter, so if 12 rows were splitting a prescription zone the planter would have to pick one zone or the other as the population. Variable rate prescriptions now get planted as written because every row can be a different rate. That old hydraulic drive was slow to change too, but the vDrives change very quickly.
The final proof that our planter upgrades were worth it comes from our seed dealer of over 25 years. He’s walked our fields for a long time checking up on his product. From the first season with our Precision Planting built planter, he said our stands were so much more even and uniform than they ever were before.
Retrofitting an older planter bar, rather than buying a brand-new planter, has been the most practical and economic decision for our farm. We are more than pleased with the job it has done and the customization that we could add to match our farm’s needs. I highly encourage other farmers to explore the idea of adding new products to your existing planter to increase your farming potential.