It's A Two-Tractor Planting Year

Inside Dakota Ag

How many tractors does it take to plant corn in the Dakotas? If you answered one, you'd be wrong this year.

Published on: May 27, 2011
How many tractors does it take to plant?

You’d usually say one, of course.

But in parts of the Dakotas this year it’s taking one tractor to pull the planter and another tractor, or perhaps even two tractors, to pull the planter tractor when it gets stuck.

Pull tractors have been needed a lot in the fall with combines and sugarbeet lifters, but not so much in the spring.

Every year is different, I guess, and this one will be one for the record books.

What doesn’t change is common sense that farmers seem to have.

During the 1980s, some farm management experts were recommending producers take a closer look at how much machinery they had. They argued that many grain growers had too much iron, that they were just in love with “new paint.”

Planters were generally too big for what was really needed, they said. And most farmers had too many tractors. The spreadsheet economists recommended running planters 24 hours a day and sharing planters with farmers who planted earlier or later than they did. On paper it was cheaper to share equipment, rather than buying bigger equipment.

I don’t think many farmers in North Dakota and South Dakota listened to the advice. And a good thing, too. They need extra tractor and planter power this year to get as much crop seeded as possible before it’s too late.