Farmer Iron

What a Difference 30 Years Can Make

New equipment really does what those iron-makers say it does.

When you go to a lot of information-packed media conferences about new equipment there's plenty of excitement, hoopla and energy surrounding the launch of a new piece of equipment. But sometimes the skeptical journalist part of me listens to engineers talking about product claims and how they work and wonders if that'll really happen in the field.

Earlier this week I got the chance to join some friends at a major agency based in Fargo, N.D. - AdFarm - for a unique tour they take where they visit farms and learn more about issues in agriculture. When you're tucked away in an agency office you can get separated from the real-world pretty quickly. Turns out this agency even gets a plot of land on a farm to "manage" from deciding what to plant to marketing the crop. The aim is to get them invested in this business even more fully.

The "farm" the agency manages was, this year, a 70-acre pinto bean field. The crop looked pretty good, and the sellers may be getting a fair price for their efforts. They work with Fred Lukens - an Aneta, N.D. grower, who runs a diversified operation including wheat, barley, corn, canola and those dry beans - among others.

Now to the meat of this blog. During the farm tour, visitors got a chance to look at corn plots - where they learned that technology is advancing enough that some day there will be 80-day corn that can consistently hit 200 bushels per acre, but I digress.

While we're standing there looking at plots, which were about a foot shorter than the adjacent production field, Lukens made an observation. He noted that his plots were planted with a 30-year-old planter while his production fields were put in with a late-model machine.

He notes that was the only difference in the two field areas, the age of the planters, yet the production field was a full foot taller. This observation just shows that new machines do get better; that precision seed placement can have a difference in how a crop grows. And while I'm not surprised, it's great to see the productivity in action.

The older planter - an International 400 - did a fine job with the plots, but the newer Case IH 1200 series was the winner for the production field. I'm not singling out the brands, all new-model planters have innovations and precision placement that can make a difference in crop performance. I just wanted to answer the big reader question by telling you the planter models.

Something to ponder as you consider equipment investments for the 2010 season.

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