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Bulk soybean handling roundup

There are probably as many ways to get soybean seed to the field these days as there are farmers and seed companies. What’s more certain is how seed isn’t going to the field — in 50-pound bags.

There’s also a shift away from the large bags that hold 40 units, notes Chris Linville, a farmer and seed rep for Stewart Seeds, Greensburg. “We’re getting more requests for delivery in plastic bulk boxes or just in bulk,” he notes. “We still deliver seed in 2,000-pound bags if the customer wants it, but many are finding other ways to do it.”

More than a decade ago, big bags were the craze as farmers shifted away from 50-pound bags. Many emptied seed from the bags into gravity wagons or seed tenders. Then the seed was hauled to the field in the wagon. That’s still how some people handle them, but more and more, farmers are growing weary of handling the huge, soft-sided bags.

Some seed companies even provide metal cages to put the bags in as they’re lifted by a forklift to dump into a wagon or tender. “What concerns us is reaching underneath to pull the string and open the bag,” says Jerry Jackson, Lexington. “We raise them up over our tender with a forklift, but you’re basically trusting that the forklift won’t let go.”

Jerry and his uncle, Terry, will likely shift to receiving bulk seed in boxes this year. Each plastic box holds 2,500 pounds, 500 pounds more than the standard bulk bag. They’re also stackable, Linville notes. If stored in a level spot, you can stack them three high without a problem, he observes.

Key Points

• A seed tender on a 1-ton truck helps one farm streamline seed handling.

• Handling seed doesn’t have to be complicated.

• Many farmers now favor plastic boxes over large bags.

Tender transport

A commercial one-compartment seed tender mounted on a 1-ton truck works best for the Jacksons for getting bulk seed to the field. The Friesen tender holds 110 bushels. To open the large, plastic seed box to fill the tender, they simply have to pull a slide. It doesn’t require reaching under the forklift arms.

“I usually run the air drill by myself, so things need to be convenient,” Jerry says. “I can climb up the ladder we attached to the truck bed, safely step onto the drill. I don’t have to get down until I’m through filling the drill.”

The secret to making their system portable and economical is the older 1-ton truck that carries the seed tender, Terry notes. While hauling the tender is one of its main jobs, the flatbed truck can be used for other purposes if necessary.

“We can take the tender off in about 20 to 25 minutes if we need to,” Jerry says.

They also carry a fuel tank and a parts box on the truck. When Jerry drives the seed tender truck to the field, he intends to stay for a while.

Traditional approach

A gravity wagon with an auger attached serves as the seed tender for Greg Brawner, Hanover. He and his son operate a dairy and also raise crops.

“We pull it with a tractor so we don’t need a motor to run hydraulics,” Brawner notes. “It works for us. And it still gets us away from 50-pound bags.”

The Brawners have also switched to a planter with row splitters instead of a drill for planting beans. When they used a drill, the auger was mounted on it. Now, the auger mounts on the wagon.

The biggest change Brawner hopes to make this year is using stackable plastic boxes instead of large bags. They’re attractive because they’re rodentproof and weatherproof. However, most people prefer storing them inside when full.

“The plan is to lift boxes over the wagon with a forklift and dump seed into the wagon,” Brawner explains.

Go a long time between fill-ups

When Chris Linville runs back to the shop during the day while planting corn, it’s usually not for seed. He pulls a commercial seed box carrier to the field that allows him to take three plastic seed boxes at one time. Three big seed boxes holding 50 units each lets him cover a lot of acres before running low on seed.

“We bought our three-box tender new to simplify corn planting,” says Linville, Osgood. Since then, he’s also used it to haul boxes of soybeans and wheat.

The Strobel-brand three-box tender allows him to take one, two or three hybrids to the field at once. Each box is independent from the others. “One option is to carry two boxes of GMO hybrid and one box of a non-GMO hybrid for refuge acres,” he explains.

Two 1,500-gallon tanks fit on Linville’s tandem truck. When he pulls the tender, he’s got a one-stop supply mart on wheels.


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OLD BUT RELIABLE: John Epperson, Hanover, fills his 1969 truck with 400 bushels of bulk seed, then drives to the field to fill his planter.

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CONVENIENT FILLING: The working space on the back of this air drill makes it easy for Jerry Jackson to move from the seed tender truck to the drill and back.

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THREE AT ONCE: Taking three seed boxes to the field in one trip justifies the cost of this rig for Chris Linville and family, Osgood.

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EASY DOES IT: Driving a load of seed to the field is a snap for Jerry and Terry Jackson.

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SIMPLE SOLUTION: Greg Brawner takes advantage of bulk seed with a minimal investment in equipment.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.