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With prices high and fields wet, North Dakota farmer uses two-tractor solution to plant wheat

In a year with high commodity prices and high fertilizer prices, Larry Linneman, a farmer near Reynolds, North Dakota, explains why he made the unprecedented choice to pull a wheat seeding rig with two tractors. Prevented-planting insurance won’t pay what crops will pay, and it’s hard to watch expensive fertilizer leach away. Rotations with sugarbeets are an issue.

Two John Deere front-wheel-assist tractors pull an air seeder that is planting spring wheat -- an unusual situation, caused by a top one-inch of dry soil, underlain with mud. The flat Red River Valley ground had been fertilized in October 2021.
A still photo taken from a video by Bruce Kulseth shows the Larry Linneman Farms crews on June 6, 2022, using a John Deere 8245 and a John Deere 8360 front-wheel assist to pull an air seeder. They covered 500 acres on three tracts, putting the last of the spring wheat in, three weeks behind schedule, at Reynolds, North Dakota.
Courtesy / Bruce Kulseth
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REYNOLDS, N.D. — Larry Linneman has used a second tractor to pull a tractor pulling an air seeder in the past, but it’s usually to tow someone through a tough spot.

“We’ve done it a little before on side hills,” Linneman said. “But we had to do it on 500 acres this year to get it seeded.”

Some of the neighbors watched in amazement and one seed sales professional took some video.

A smiling farmer in sunglasses stands in front of his John Deere tractor with a tillage piece to prepare seedbeds.
Larry Linneman, 46, runs Larry Linneman Farms, now an 8,400-acre operation based at Reynolds, North Dakota. His father, also Larry, had run it before him.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Linneman, 46, and four hired men farm about 8,400 acres. Of that, about 2,500 acres are of dry edible beans, 2,000 are of wheat, 1,400 are of corn, 1,300 are of sugarbeets, and 1,200 are of soybeans.

The Linneman crew employed the dual tractors on three wheat parcels, finishing June 6, 2022, about three weeks later than desirable.

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“It was time to get the crop in,” he said.

‘Graying off’ again

The pressure to plant wheat was — in spite of soil conditions — because the co-op had fertilized for wheat last October, at strong prices. Linneman also wanted to stay with the three-year sugarbeet rotation.

“It’s best to put beets on (last year’s) wheat ground,” he said. The move is primarily to break disease cycles.

A John Deere tractor and tillage equipment move across a field that has characteristic "gray" color, which indicates fitness to plant.
Larry Linneman of Reynolds, North Dakota, prepares a soybean seedbed on a nicely “gray” dry crust field, on what would be the last day of planting the crop, June 10, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The ground was an inch of dry soil on the top and “mush underneath, “ he said. “We had to put two tractors on,” Linneman said.

The Linneman crew had tried seeding wheat a week or two prior to their ultimate finish, but to no avail. The soil then had “grayed-off” — a characteristic gray crust — usually indicating it was fit for seeding.

“Then we got two inches of rain and we got it ‘grayed-off’ again,” he said. "But every drain or low area the seeder would sink in a foot or more, and the cart behind the air drill would sink even deeper.”

The drive-by video showed Linneman’s John Deere 8245 and a John Deere 8360 front-wheel assist.

“I don’t know anybody else tried it,” he said, noting that some farmers chose to “PP," or use the prevented planting provision in their crop insurance.

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Larry Linneman Farms is on the logo on the side of a truck being used to take soybean seed to the field.
Larry Linneman and four hired men raise crops on 8,400 acres, based in the Reynolds, North Dakota, area. Of that, about 2,500 acres are of dry edible beans, 2,000 acres of wheat, 1,400 acres of corn, 1,300 acres of sugar beets, 1,200 acres of soybeans.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

“I have never planted this much wheat, this late,” Linneman said. Fertilizer prices were $500 a ton last July, and went up to $1,000, and now had come down about $650 to 700.

“You’ve got the expense in the ground,” Linneman said. “You want to use it up because the nitrogen will ‘leach’ away. You gotta use it up or lose it.”

Fertilizer price shifts

Linneman thinks the schedule for spraying crops is bound to be “jumbled up” or at least compressed.

A man runs an auger spout atop an air seeder while another mans the auger on a "tender truck" during soybean planting.
Andrew Reynierse, right, runs the seed tender as Danny Leddige loads soybeans into the hoppers to be planted June 10, 2022, on the Larry Linneman Farms near Reynolds, North Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

“You’re going to take the same amount of work and now we’re going to have one month less time to do it all — shorter growing season and different stages of planting. You’ve got some wheat that’s out of the ground and two weeks some of it needs to be sprayed, and some of it just got seeded," he said.

Linneman has “replanted” as late as June 23, in past years, after hailstorms, for example “But this will be the latest to put the majority of the crop in in June,” he said.

“Usually the wheat don’t like the heat,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Linneman is optimistic the soybeans still can mature before the normal fall frost dates.

A man stands atop a John Deere air seeder, putting soybean seed into a hopper.
Solomon “Sol” Hofer, loads soybean seed into the seeder hopper on June 10, 2022, as Andrew Reynierse looks on, the last day of seeding for 2022 at Larry Linneman Farms, Reynolds, North Dakota.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The farm started this year’s planting with wheat and sugarbeets but took a break in wheat seeding on May 7. They planted beets through late May. Last year’s edible bean ground was wet and tough to get through. Linneman liked how the sugarbeet stand looked on June 10, fed by a series of small rains.

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Corn went into the ground somewhat late — right up to the insurance planting deadline, on May 25 or 26, depending on the location. Linneman said this could portend a late harvest. Hard to say.

Linneman finished edible beans on June 9, 2022 — pintos, navy beans and pinks. Strong prices encouraged him and others. Soy planting ended June 10, 2022, with the last of the rock-rolling coming as rain started. It was a relief, he acknowledged.

“Everyone wants to get the crop in,” he said. “Get it done with and move on.”

062022.AG.PlantingTwoTractorEffort07
The Larry Linneman Farms crew rolled rocks in the last day of soybean planting near Reynolds, North Dakota, on June 10, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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