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"One-Stop" No-Till Planter & Fertilizer System

Sunday, April 1, 2001
filed under: Equipment

Efficiency & Versatility

ND No-Till Sunflower Producers Are Enthusiastic About Their 'One-Stop' Planter and Fertilizer System

The Emmons County, N.D., father-son duo of Monte and Chad Vander

Vorst can't help but smile when discussing their row-crop planting

setup. And rightly so. After all, who wouldn't be happy using a system

with which they can:

. Plant all their row crops (sunflower, corn and soybeans).

. Apply dry fertilizer for the sunflower and corn at planting.

. Cover a large number of acres without refilling seed or fertilizer.

. Cut seeding/refilling manpower needs down to one person.

. Fit seamlessly into an existing no-till system.

. Contribute to ton-plus average sunflower yields.

The unit which the Vander Vorsts have utilized since 1999 consists

of a John Deere 1780 MarEnerge Plus vacuum planter followed by a

130-bushel Concord air tank, which is attached to the planter via a

heavy-duty gooseneck hitch. They seed 15 rows of sunflower in 15-inch

rows, simultaneously applying fertilizer from the Concord tank on

30-inch centers. An eight-port tower distributes the fertilizer between

alternate rows of sunflower.

The JD 1780 also is used to plant their corn crop in 30-inch rows,

with the trailing Concord tank again carrying fertilizer. For

soybeans, the Vander Vorsts remove the planter units (except for disks,

shoes and gauge wheel) and run the beans through the air tank, switching

over to a 15-port tower instead of the eight-port they use for applying

fertilizer on their sunflower and corn ground.

Prior to 1999, the Vander Vorsts were using an air seeder to plant

their no-till sunflower crop. While they were generally pleased with

its performance, there was one important facet with which they were not

satisfied: seed placement accuracy. Placement was not consistent

enough, they felt, thus resulting in more weed competition and eventual

lower yields.

"The beauty of the [JD 7180] is we're using an actual planter unit

and dropping those seeds perfectly," Chad remarks. "That's what we

really like to see: evenly spaced plants."

Because they're in 15-inch rows, the Vander Vorsts use just a

single trash whipper when planting no-till sunflower. They may go to a

twin setup in this year's corn ground, however, since the corn is in

30-inch rows.

Adding the Concord tank - which can carry about 7,000 pounds of dry

fertilizer - came out of the Vander Vorsts' desire to apply all their

fertilizer at planting, rather than having to undertake a separate

preplant operation. "The 7180 planter doesn't come with dry fertilizer

[capability] because its carrying wheels for the whole chassis are in

front," Chad points out. "So if we wanted to apply fertilizer with this

planter, we had to devise something like this [air tank-gooseneck


They've fertilized for a 2,200- to 2,300-pound sunflower yield goal

the past couple years. While fertilizer formulations obviously vary

according to soil test results, "if we wanted to put down about 100

pounds of actual N, we might run a blend like 200 pounds of urea; then

put in another 75 pounds of 18-46-0," Chad relates. "Or we may go with

150 pounds of urea - which would give us 69 pounds of N; plus another 75

pounds of 18-46-0, which would provide an additional 13 pounds of N plus

about 35 pounds of phosphorus."

The Vander Vorsts' per-acre sunflower seed drop is 30,000,

resulting in a final plant stand of around 27,000. In 15-inch rows,

that plant population gives them an in-row seed spacing of just under 14

inches. The resulting equidistant spacing in all directions optimizes

nutrients, moisture and sunlight, Chad points out - and also contributes

to a quick and complete plant canopy, which in turn helps suppress

late-emerging weeds.

Weed control has been very satisfactory in the Vander Vorst no-till

sunflower fields. Effective broadleaf management during the rotation's

other crop years is critical, Chad notes. Their only herbicide

applications in the 2000 sunflower fields consisted of a preplant

Roundup burndown and a single postemergent grass treatment.

The Vander Vorsts met their ton-plus yield goal in 2000 despite not

receiving any rainfall from the third week of July through harvest.

Given their high plant populations - and the ensuing smaller average

head size - Chad was concerned about the sunflower heads not filling to

their center. A 33-pound test weight left him pleasantly surprised at

season's end, however.

Chad says he and his father couldn't be more pleased with the

seed-fertilizer delivery system they use for their sunflower and other

row crops. Its row-spacing versatility and seed placement accuracy -

coupled with the capability to supply large-acreage fertilizer needs -

has been a great boon to their south central North Dakota operation's

efficiency and productivity, he affirms. And those impressive ton-plus

no-till sunflower yields provide the proof. - Don Lilleboe

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