Farmer using dual-hybrid planter hopes to maximize yield

Farm Forum

Farmers know that every bushel counts, especially in a year when commodity prices are low and moisture is scarce.

Many farmers use variable-rate planting technology to boost their yield, but conventional-till farmer Trav Bratland of Willow Lake is using a dual-hybrid planter to get the most out of his land.

Bratland said the planter is meant for places like South Dakota where there are a variety of soils in the same field. He said the heavy soils have sections where it’s much lighter, and a different hybrid may work well there.

“We’re going to use it on 1,500 acres of corn and 1,500 of beans this year,” Bratland said in a phone interview from the field on April 29. “We want to be able to take advantage of planting different drought-resistant varieties in spots. By being able to do that, we hope to increase the average yield for the whole field.”

The planter allows two hybrids to be planted in the same row. As soil changes across the field, the machine has the capability to go back and forth between the two, directing seeds to be planted according to the detailed prescription.

Using two hybrids in the field is a way to build and increase yields, Bratland said. Corn yields for their land have been in the 150 to 200 bushel range. He hopes to increase that by an average of 20 bushels more per acre. He noted that the more variability there is in the soil, the bigger the yield increase could be.

On the soybean side, he’s averaged 40 to 80 bushels per acre and is looking for more dollars. He’s hopeful that the dual-hybrids perform better for soybeans as it doesn’t take as many bushels to get more income. “I’m hoping for three, four or five more bushels per acre,” he said.

Bratland said, “By doing a little math, if I increase corn by 10 bushels and beans by three bushels an acre, it will pay for the modifications (to his planter) in the first year.”

Bratland had considered a multi-hybrid planter, but there wasn’t one available on the market last year.

As a Precision Planting dealer, Bratland said he was able to access the needed equipment and make the modifications to a conventional planter at their shop in Willow Lake.

“I looked at the meters and other equipment that Precision Planting has developed in the last few years,” he said. “I didn’t want a machine that I had to modify a lot. I was able to use a 2008 John Deere corn unit, use the meters, electronics and different hosing.”

“We have a network of dealers who have the ability to put together a suite of products to work with the farmer’s existing system on John Deere and Kinze equipment,” Sean Arians, Marketing Manager for Precision Planting in Tremont, Ill., said in a phone interview on May 4. “Because of that, we don’t know how many farmers in South Dakota are making use of the multi-hybrid system.”

Arians explained that farmers or dealers use the existing planter, and by adding to it, make it the planter of the future. The hopper is divided in two, one side for each hybrid. Two meters are placed on each row so the appropriate seed drops down the tube, depending on the prescription, he said. An electric-drive motor delivers almost instantaneous changes based on the input instructions. Using the cloud-based system, the information is loaded wirelessly into Fieldview and ready for use when the farmer is ready to plant.

The dealers work with a farmer to decide on the needed components for this type of technology, depending on the model and capability of the equipment. Local agronomists, who know the history of the fields, provide the expert information about what hybrids are to be used.

On April 29, Bratland said 600 acres had been planted and things were going well. The hardest part was getting the initial programs written.

Bratland said they do their own agronomy work but get assistance from Legend Seeds on determining which seed varieties to use.

When working with Bratland, Josh Lamecker, Legend Seed agronomist, said they mapped out the differences between highly productive areas in fields and areas that didn’t produce as well.

In determining what hybrids to use with the dual-hybrid seeder, Bratland needed a ‘race horse’ seed that would perform well on the highly fertile ground, maximizing the yield potential in those areas. That would be paired with a ‘work horse’ seed that could improve yield in the lower productive areas.

Lamecker said that at times, backing off on plant populations can make a change in production. They had to take that into consideration as well.

Lamecker said mapping a field comes down to examining the areas closely. “Is low productive ground some that is light and dry, or is it poorly drained? We had to identify those characteristics and write the prescription accordingly,” he said.

Lamecker said that figuring this out can be overwhelming.

“It brings in a whole new element about what possibilities exist for an acre,” Lamecker said. “Trav has the equipment and we use the capabilities of Legend Edge, a program through Legend Seeds Farmacology, to write agronomically proven prescriptions that maximize the yield potential on every acre.”

He said the services are all web-based, meaning the farmers are able to access the data from any computer.

The Bratland family has been innovators through the years.

“We’ve done a lot of new stuff,” Bratland said. “My brother and dad planted the first Roundup Ready beans in this area.” And neighbors and others in the ag industry will be watching to see how this innovative thinking turns out.

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