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Wean the waterways

Vic Miller plants corn and soybeans with this planter, which he modified so that he could shut it off at waterways.

The extra switch on top of his planter control box lets Vic Miller turn the planter off at waterways.

For years, Vic Miller simply planted across waterways, as long as they were dry. Wasting a little seed in return for speed and convenience didn't seem extravagant back when he was planting 25,000 seeds per acre and getting 3.2 acres out of an 80,000-count bag of seed corn. His cost per acre was only $20 or so.

By 2005, however, his seed costs had changed dramatically. Now, the Oelwein, Iowa, farmer is planting 35,000 seeds per acre in 20-inch rows and getting 2.3 acres out of a bag of seed. One triple-stack hybrid cost him $77 an acre.

Disengaging the planter

"With the cost of stacked hybrids, you need to be able to shut the planter off because there is no point planting through those waterways," says Miller. "You're not going to grow anything there anyway.

"I've got one 100-acre field with 11 acres of waterways," he says. "At $77 an acre for seed, it would cost $847 to plant through the waterways."

Miller bought a new 24-row (20-inch) planter for 2005. It was designed so the operator could shut off half the rows without raising the planter, but not all the rows. Miller didn't want to raise the planter because that wastes time.

"Plus, when you raise the planter, you cycle the markers so the wrong marker drops," he says. "Or, you can control the markers with a separate switch. But then it's real easy to forget to lower the markers every time."

Miller's solution, arrived at with the help of a local John Deere mechanic, was to wire an additional switch into the planter control box in the cab. Instead of disengaging just one side of the planter, he can disengage both sides.

"The switch is almost instantaneous," he says. "A magnet on the planter pulls the plates apart in the clutches. So the instant electricity hits the magnet on each side, the planter stops planting." (His planter has a mechanical transmission rather than hydraulic drive.)

The control box that Miller added the switch to is part of a CAN bus system that utilizes low voltage. That's why the modification was made at the control box rather than on the planter.

Waterway angle matters

Most of Miller's waterways run fairly straight. If he had diagonal waterways to contend with, he wouldn't get the full economic advantage of shutting the planter off at waterways.

Vic Miller plants corn and soybeans with this planter, which he modified so that he could shut it off at waterways.

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