Should You Buy That New Planter or Not?

Down-to-wire on buying decisions for 2010.

Published on: Dec 27, 2010

Is a new planter where you should invest money if you're looking to improve your equipment line-up for 2011 and ensure tax savings for 2010 at the same time? Or is there somewhere else where you could get a better return on your money?

That question may depend upon several factors. The first might be how old is your planter. A study of planting speed in the Indiana Prairie Farmer/ Precision Planting study this past year indicated that while planting at 4 miles per hour produced the best stand in terms of uniformity, yield wasn't any different. In fact, it was slightly lower, although it wasn't significant.

What the study ended up showing, Bob Nielsen believes, is that planters have improved over the years and farmers have become more in tune to having them spruced up and ready for the planting season. Even at the highest planting speed, six miles per hour, the standard deviation in spacing was only 2.5. It was significantly higher, which means the plants weren't as uniformly spaced, as at 4 or 5 miles per hour, but the yield was the same as at 5 miles per hour and higher than at 4 miles per hour.

The standard deviation was still far more respectable than many Nielsen found when he began checking standard deviation 20 years ago in Indiana. He believes that the 2.5 standard deviation probably was not enough off course to affect yields. And in the study, the 5.o and 6.0 miles per hour speeds produced nearly identical yields, both slightly higher than the better spaced, 4.0 miles per hour. Dave Nanda, Seed Consultants thinks that may be because the population was about 600 plants higher per acre for 4 miles per hour. This was not a year to be high on plants per acre, especially on corn planted in late May with drought starting in late July. Even so, yields averaged above 190 bushels per acre.

The other factor might be how well you've maintained the planter, or better yet, how much you feel you can afford to invest to put it in top shape. With metering stands readily available today, with most people who own them charging minimal cost for testing units, it's easy to get units in top shape, often for not a lot of dollars.

The bottom line may be if you've got a relatively modern planter and do a good job of annual maintenance and replace parts when necessary, replacing your planter may not gain you in better performance in the field, or in final yield.

Of course, if you need a bigger planter, that's a different concern. And it also depends upon what else you would do with the money if it didn't go into a planter. Would it go into something that could stand a better chance of retuning more yields or more profit next season? That's the real question worth asking.