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Twin-Row Planter One-of-a-Kind

Sunday, December 1, 2013
filed under: Equipment

After observing his sibling establish a successful track record in twin-row crop production over the past few years, Brian Jelinek decided it was time to follow brother Jim’s lead. So in the spring of 2013, the Alliance, Neb., producer planted all his sunflower, corn and dry bean crops in twin rows.

That’s a big leap in and of itself. But Brian took it one step further, developing a one-of-a-kind planter in his farm shop over the winter of 2012/13.

Environmental Tillage Systems (ETS) of Faribault, Minn., built the 24-row (48 twin rows) unit’s 60-foot toolbar for Jelinek. He then mounted John Deere twin-row planting units on the toolbar, added Yetter trash managers, and added a seed and fertilizer delivery system in the form of an ETS Seed Warrior® central-fill cart. The Seed Warrior cart is controlled with Deere’s iSteer Active Implement Guidance system. “So I don’t get any of the side draft that you would normally have with a pull-type machine,” Jelinek explains. “It’s an independent steering system controlled from the tractor.”

That capability takes on extra importance for this Box Butte County grower because he’s planting each set of staggered twin rows into an 8-inch wide strip-tilled zone. That’s a ticklish task since the twin rows are 7.5 inches apart. “Strip till is tough with a pull-type machine in this country,” Jelinek says of his sandy loam soils, “so that feature is really important in keeping the planter units within those strips.” Twenty-three inches separate one set of twin rows from the next. (He uses a 24-row Krause Gladiator to perform the strip tillage pass about three weeks ahead of planting.)

While he had witnessed a yield bump in brother Jim’s twin-row corn and dry beans, Brian admits to not knowing what to expect with his irrigated confection sunflower when he planted in twin rows last spring. By late August, the ’flowers looked excellent, with exceptionally strong stalk strength. They also seemed to canopy a bit quicker than 30-inch rows, he says, contributing to better weed suppression.

In the end, Jelinek’s twin-row confections yielded about 3,100 lbs/ac (prior to foreign matter screening). Seed size also was excellent, with samples indicating between 80-90% large. Since he didn’t do any side-by-side comparisons with standard 30-inch rows, however, Jelinek says he can’t yet draw any firm conclusions on comparative yield. “I have had single rows yield as much as the twin rows did this year,” he notes. “But I will say the stalk girth and plant standability were better with the twin rows.”

The western Nebraska producer says singulation and seed placement was very satisfactory with his custom planting system. Incorporating components such as the eSet® vacuum metering and Deere’s active pneumatic downforce and Seedstar™ XP monitoring system definitely helped.

One remaining question for Jelinek is optimum sunflower plant population. He had been going with a seed drop of 18,000 for his irrigated confections in standard rows, but this year went up to 20,000 with the twin rows. “My main objective was to not sacrifice any seed size,” he states. He plans to run some population strip trials in his 2014 confections, ranging from 18,000 on the low end up to 23,-24,000, to try to gain a better idea of optimum population under the twin-row scenario.

Jelinek places his fertilizer with the Krause strip-till unit. He did bump up the nitrogen on his twin-row ’flowers “just a hair” (another 20 lbs, on top of the standard 90). On his corn, he doubled the starter fertilizer from 5 gallons to 10 “because we’re running twice as many rows, so I wanted that same amount in the row as was there before.”

Also a sugarbeet producer, Jelinek used his twin-row planter to seed his 2013 beet crop as well — just not in twin rows. “I made it so the front tank runs rows 1, 3, 5, 7 and so on, while the back tank runs rows 2, 4, 6, 8, etc.,” he says. “By doing that, to plant single-row beets, I just lock up the front row and shut off the front tank, using just the back tank for sugarbeets. A GPS offset in my implement steering brings it back to center — and it stays there.” He is toying with the idea of twin-row sugarbeets, but the major obstacle there is figuring out a way to harvest them.

So did Brian Jelinek enjoy the experience of operating his one-of-a-kind high-tech planter this year? “Yes,” he agrees. “It really covers some ground. It’s a unique twin-row planter; you won’t find another one quite like it.”

— Don Lilleboe

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