PROSPER, N.D. — Amid a global pandemic, and a downturn in commodity prices, agricultural equipment companies are still innovating, hoping to help farmers capitalize when things are looking up.

“With uncertain times, as a manufacturer, it’s always important to keep producing very efficient products, very top-of-the-line, leading in technology products,” says Steven Pranke, of Sioux Falls, S.D., a field product specialist, for AGCO Corporation.

On May 21, Pranke was in the Red River Valley, organizing field demonstrations for the new Fendt Momentum planter. Fendt is a brand of AGCO, which is the third-largest ag equipment manufacturer in the world.The planters are built at Beloit, Kan., powered by the Fendt 939 Gen6 tractor, built in Marktoberdorf, Germany.

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Steven Pranke of Sioux Falls, S.D., is a field product specialist, for AGCO Corp., the third-largest ag equipment maker, including its German-based Fendt brand. Photo taken May 21, 2020, near Prosper, N.D.  Mikkel Pates / Agweek
060120.AG.AGCOplanter04.jpg Steven Pranke of Sioux Falls, S.D., is a field product specialist, for AGCO Corp., the third-largest ag equipment maker, including its German-based Fendt brand. Photo taken May 21, 2020, near Prosper, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Pranke saisd AGCO’s factories and suppliers for the company had slowed a bit in the first month of the but now have returned to close to a more “business-as-usual” mode, he said.

“We brought our planter into an area with heavier ground,” Pranke said. “Six farmers across several crops in the Red River Valley area participated in head-to-head demonstrations with their own equipment. In this site, Fendt was competing with John Deere equipment, run by the farmer with their preferred settings, planting corn."

Something new

A 44-foot wide prototype of a new Fendt “Momentum” planter plants corn in a field near Prosper, N.D., on May 21, 2020, in one of a handful of  field demonstrations. The planter is expected to go on the market in this region in 2021. Photo taken May 21, 2020, near Prosper, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
A 44-foot wide prototype of a new Fendt “Momentum” planter plants corn in a field near Prosper, N.D., on May 21, 2020, in one of a handful of field demonstrations. The planter is expected to go on the market in this region in 2021. Photo taken May 21, 2020, near Prosper, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
Hans Kandel, a North Dakota State University Extension agronomist, said that when farm budgets are tight, farmers will shave costs. “But if a new technology saves money, they will jump on it, but if it adds cost without a certain return, they might be a bit more hesitant,” he said, adding, “Farmers are always trying something new.”

An earlier version of the Fendt Magnum, with a slightly different design, was released in South America two years ago. Now, it’s been refined the North American market, he said.

As is often the case in this stage of marketing new ag iron products, Pranke declined to specify a selling price, but he said Fendt strives to be “competitive in the marketplace.” It offers a three-year warranty, varying with specific acre amounts and row sizes.

“It’s really based on any row spacing and any ground terrain situation,” Pranke said. Row spacings come in 15-, 20-, 22- and 30- inches, from 40 feet to 66 feet. “We’re getting them out to dealers, getting them out to different customers, to see the performance across different areas in the Corn Belt,” he said.

Zero compaction

An enthused Steven Pranke of Sioux Falls, S.D., a field product specialist, for AGCO Corp. and its Fendt brands, organizes field demonstrations for the new Fendt “Momentum” planter, which will come on the market in North America in 2021.Photo taken May 21, 2020, near Prosper, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
An enthused Steven Pranke of Sioux Falls, S.D., a field product specialist, for AGCO Corp. and its Fendt brands, organizes field demonstrations for the new Fendt “Momentum” planter, which will come on the market in North America in 2021.Photo taken May 21, 2020, near Prosper, N.D. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
The goal is “zero compaction” or “pinch rows,” Pranke said.

The new system employs a “Load Logic” system. It automatically controls the tire inflation across the entire planter bar, dependent on actual weight, Pranke said. It has a “contouring tool bar.” The primary and secondary tool bar uses sensors to automatically level the parallel link arms to maintain consistent seed depth under any conditions.

Pranke said this is especially important when the planter is full with 140 bushels of seed and 1,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer.

“When we’re full, we’re going to transfer some of that weight off that center section when we’re in this heavier (Red River) Valley ground,” he said. “That allows us to do that — lighten up that footprint, along with widening out the footprint with our tires.”

NDSU soil scientist Dave Franzen says the equipment sounds like an “interesting idea” that could be evaluated in different situations. Compaction impacts will vary based on the types of clays and their “shrink-swell” would vary by soil type. “The farther west you go in the state, the more patient you have to be,” Franzen said.

At the end of planting in a field, the machine automatically inflates the tires to a safe recommended tire pressure for traveling down the road. At harvest, the company will compare the production results from each system. “We’ll know what every pass did,” Pranke said.

Kandel said agricultural equipment and input companies are always asking him to research new things, even in the most difficult times. “They’re betting on the future.”