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Published September 03, 2013, 10:35 AM

Home field

Titan Machinery Inc. of Fargo will display the new YieldTrac 24R-22 planter at the Big Iron Farm Show.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Titan Machinery Inc. of Fargo will display the new YieldTrac 24R-22 planter at the Big Iron Farm Show, Sept. 10 to 12, at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo, N.D.

The 24R-22 is the first major project of Titan’s Innovations Division — the dealer’s own manufacturing and assembly effort to gain some home field advantage. In July 2012, the division moved into a 25,000-square-foot leased facility in south Fargo, partly a parts warehouse. It employs about a dozen production workers and five engineers.

Titan’s new planter is designed around practices in the Red River Valley — areas influenced by sugar beet production, which is mostly done in 22-inch rows, says Jim Lilleberg, Titan’s vice president of marketing.

“Case-IH has not made a 24-row, 22-inch configuration planter,” Lilleberg says. “It was a product gap. The whole concept behind our Innovations Group is to look at product gaps and we can help fill that gap for our stores for a product that they need.”

Evolving growth widths

Corn row widths have evolved over time, says Tom Lykken, innovations division manager in Fargo.

A half-century ago, U.S. corn planting started out in 40-inch rows because that was the width of animals pulling them. The crop evolved in the Corn Belt to 30-inch rows when rubber tire tractors came in. Twenty-inch rows have gained some popularity but use extremely narrow tires. Nebraska farmers often are raising corn in 36- and 38-inch rows.

To a primary manufacturer like Case-IH, the 22-inch row is kind of a regional niche market, Lilleberg acknowledges. In northern sugar beet regions, farmers historically have planted beets in 22-inch rows. As those beet farmers shifted into corn and soybean rotations in the past 15 years, the lack of a 22-inch planter was hurting Titan’s sales of planters in the region, but also affecting sales in tractors and other equipment, Lilleberg says. Two major competitors have had 24-row, 22-inch planters, sometimes partnering with smaller manufacturers.

It isn’t unprecedented for dealers to build equipment tailored to the needs of the local area when primary manufacturers aren’t able to justify it.

“The difference here in this case, because we have enough stores with this need, we can satisfy that need on a broader scale, as opposed to what has typically happened — where one dealer would build a few planters to fit his market,” Lilleberg says. The company has chosen on a limited basis to make them available to other non-Titan, Case-IH dealers.

Dealer fills own niche

Titan has Case-IH agricultural dealerships in five states — 67 locations in all, the largest string in the world. The 22-inch row product will be important in about a dozen of those stores, initially.

Titan decided to move forward with the project in October 2011. It ran three pre-production units in the spring of 2012. For the spring of 2013, it produced 31 units that are in the field across the region from Roseau, Minn., to Rogers, Minn., Valley City, N.D., and south to South Dakota and southern Minnesota.

Lykken says Case-IH planters and product line are high quality. The product is Case-IH red, and uses Case-IH’s “Early Riser” planter row units, as well as Case IH Advanced Seed Meter System, AccuDrive cable-driven seed meter, and a new IH bulk fill system, among other things.

Titan chose a track made by Camoplast. The tracks are 16.5 inches wide and have a 1,500-square-inch footprint. The tracks put less than 14 pounds per square inch on the ground, where most planters run 80 to 100 psi on wheel tracks.

They developed their own track carrier system. Young Manufacturing Inc., in Grand Forks, N.D., is making some of the “wings” — the main steel tubes that carry the planters. Harris Machine Co., Oakes, N.D., makes some of the lift components. Innova Industries Inc., of Fergus Falls, Minn., is making some wing wheel components. Precision Machine LLC in Fargo is making the big main frame system. The company is using a powder-coat painter in West Fargo.

“We’re fortunate in this area to have quite a lot of manufacturing capability,” Lykken says.

Cutting compaction

Lilleberg says one Pioneer study showed that the middle one-third of a planter on average produces 11 bushels per acre less yield than the third on either side, which corresponds to compaction created by a typical planter. Planters have gotten bigger, wider and carry more attachments so have gotten heavier, with bigger seed and fertilizer hoppers.

“The typical planter has eight wheels on the ground,” Lykken says. “Ours, there’s only four tracks. Probably more important than that, we don’t have any wheel that runs on either side of a plant,” eliminating so-called “pinch rows” that can limit root development, as well as water and nutrient uptake.

Lilleberg says he’s been told by DuPont Pioneer corn researchers that if farmers are growing corn north of the border between the Dakotas, they’d best be using 22-inch rows for more efficient sunlight gathering instead of 30-inch rows. He says sweet corn grown for the Green Giant brands was raised in 22-inch rows.

Getting in earlier

Up north, row crop seasons are tighter, with short-season varieties. The farmers start planting when the field is ready for it because of the need for sunlight. Consequently, the YieldTrac planters are entirely on tracks, to minimize field damage.

The start of planting is limited by the heaviest piece of equipment — usually the planter — and the wettest spot in the field, Lilleberg says. If planters sink into soft, moist soil, it takes more fuel to move them.

Titan’s biggest hoppers on the 24R-22 planter hold 120 bushels of seed in two hoppers and a polyethylene fertilizer tank that holds 500 gallons, or 5,500 pounds. Planters can carry 13,000 pounds of seed and fertilizer without the weight of the tool bar.

Case-IH is watching the market response. The primary interest for the 22-inch planter will involve about a dozen of the company’s agricultural stores.

Meanwhile, this fall the company will start building a 30-inch planter for 2014 delivery. Most planters have carrying wheels between the row units, so the YieldTrac system is employed to open up a channel to handle the higher-residue, Bt (insect-resistant) corn, and a desire for less tillage. Lilleberg says there has been interest from farmers in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and the Dakotas. The concept was announced late this summer at a Hefty Brothers field day in Baltic, S.D. Lykken says the length of the bar and row spacing are the only differences.

Lilleberg says the company expects to produce and sell 35 units of the 22-inch models in 2014, and has similar goals for the 30-inch models. A 22-inch planter will be in Big Iron’s famous field demonstration area. Lilleberg says the price is comparable to other planters in the class, with the exception that it adds about $30,000 for the pair of tracks.