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Meeting Wet Spring Challenges

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
filed under: Equipment

Jeff Oberholtzer
       Spring is in the air, and for Jeff Oberholtzer that means it’s time to finish up the latest modifications on his planter.                                                                                                
       Oberholtzer farms near Mohall, N.D., not far from the Canadian border.  It’s been wet there in recent years — so wet that there have been some years where Oberholtzer hasn’t been able to plant most of the crops grown on his farm because the ground was just too soggy. Those super wet years led Oberholtzer to start tinkering with his planter.  He’s made changes and adjustments every year, and his modifications have proven valuable.
       “Last year we had two fields that were seeded after eight inches of rain,” Oberholtzer relates.  “But that didn’t stop us.  Our hired man running the planter never got stuck, even though he was pushing the limits and seeding in-between wet areas.” He could do that because of Oberholtzer’s latest adjustments to his John Deere 1770NT planter.  The most visible of his changes:?main frame tracks instead of tires.
       “We put on a Soucy planter track kit. John Deere and Soucy partnered to make this track kit, which replaces the four mainframe tires,” he explains.  “The cool thing is, with these tracks on the planter doesn’t sink.  It does exactly what it’s advertised to do. We were able to go through wetter conditions and the planter wouldn’t sink. I wish we had tracks on our fertilizer cart as well. We were able to seed through areas that were almost too wet to spray.”
       Since he first started modifying his planter a few years ago, Oberholtzer’s goal has remained the same:  provide more control while planting.
       “The tracks have really helped with flotation, and we’ve put on Precision Planting tools to help with seed placement.  Last year we added CleanSweep® to help the trash wheels do a better job. We can control the pneumatic downforce from the cab.” he says. “It helps give the planter units a smoother ride, and that leads to better seed placement.”
       When you’re talking sunflower and corn, seed placement is vital. Oberholtzer says the better the seed placement, the better the germination, which leads to a more uniform stand, which helps with insect control and knowing when to desiccate the crop.
       “It just helps everything down the road for scouting purposes,” he affirms.
Installing a Soucy Track kit on his John Deere 1770NT planter has increased flotation and helped optimize planter performance for Jeff Oberholtzer when operating in more difficult condition fields.

       Oberholtzer changed the in-furrow fertilizer system on his planter from the tire drive pump to a hydraulic driven pump.
“Now we run a Variable Rate Hydraulic Drive Fertilizer System out of Total Ag in Hillsboro, N.D.  It displays real-time feedback and complete fertilizer monitoring. It runs through a John Deere rate controller,” Oberholtzer explains. 
       “If I want to run three gallons instead of five gallons in-furrow, I can change that in the John Deere GS3 screen. That has taken the guesswork out of setting the rate. The system was easy to install; it took me maybe an hour to put that on.”
       This planter isn’t just used for sunflower, of course.  Oberholtzer and his dad, Jerry, also use it to plant corn and soybeans. The changes already have proven invaluable in the corn field.
       “When planting corn last year, we weren’t happy with the seed placement we were getting.  Just by being able to address the trash wheels downforce, we were able to get consistent seed depth.  The ground was variable, but we were able to easily adjust to the variations,” he comments.
       In 2016, the Oberholtzers planted about 2,000 acres of high-oleic sunflower.
       Oberholtzer has more changes planned before he starts seeding.
       “We are adding Precision Planting eSet meters and a 20/20 SeedSense monitor in the cab for a better way of monitoring what is going on with the planter and the units,” he explains.
       “You have to change as it’s needed.  The weather is unpredictable and ever-changing; so to be the best sunflower producers we can be, we need to be ever- changing as well.”
— Jody Kerzman      
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