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Big Iron deals in practical glitz

WEST FARGO, N.D. -- Big Iron XXIX -- the region's large-scale showcase for technology and agricultural services again has made its impact. Bryan Schulz, show manager, and Mike St. Onge, say crowds were good, though many farmers likely were harves...

WEST FARGO, N.D. -- Big Iron XXIX -- the region's large-scale showcase for technology and agricultural services again has made its impact.

Bryan Schulz, show manager, and Mike St. Onge, say crowds were good, though many farmers likely were harvesting small grains, which are far behind schedule.

Among those attending this year was Larry Hoppe, a farmer from Osakis, Minn., and owner of Larry's Custom Harvesting. Hoppe stopped into the show in West Fargo, N.D., on his way to Drayton, N.D., where he has one of his green combines waiting to finish spring wheat harvest, despite recent heavy rains. Another of his machines has been trying to make headway in Hallock, Minn.

"I hope we can get going pretty soon," says Hoppe, who is worried about rumors and forecasts for untimely frosts.

Thousands of show-goers come from near and far. The North Dakota Trade Office brought in 177 foreign visitors. Some of the visitors this year were from South Africa.

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Schulz notes this year's exhibits included five new "rollouts" of new machines by major manufacturers, often with a bit of country glitz. St. Onge says manufacturers know that farmers in the region are progressive and will adopt good, new offerings.

One this year was a Stars & Stripes Magnum" by Case IH. The new model has been promoted in the past year with a one-of-a-kind display machine, painted and badged with a U.S. flag motif. Fred Bower Jr., a CaseIH tractor specialist from Fargo, N.D., says the added pieces of the Magnum series carry a lower 180-, 190- and to 210 horsepower range and will be available at dealerships (in the normal red paint) starting Nov. 1.

"It's built in the United States, built in Racine, Wis.," Bower says. "Kinda unique isn't it?"

Shopping, learning

Big Iron attendees describe the event as part reunion, part education and part shopping trip.

Gary Findlay of Herman, Minn., and his friend, Mike White of Morris, Minn., live 24 miles apart and see each other only once or twice a year -- when they ride up to Big Iron together.

"You always learn something," says Findlay, who was looking at "small wind" electrical generators and 30,000-bushel grain storage bins.

Findlay says he's heard a number of educational presentations from government officials, where farmers raised numerous issues -- the problem of crop insurance not covering the drying costs; standardizing crop insurance audit policies among companies; how last year's high grain prices affected payment limitation levels.

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Among other stops, Findlay and White chatted with Josh Rauser, selling grain storage bins for Superior Inc. of Kindred, N.D. Rauser says that high-yield, low-protein wheat on the market has farmers scrambling for storage space because some elevators are full. New bin installers are booked solid for the near future, he says, and any new projects this year probably will not be added until at least late November -- "if at all."

White took a close look at a Salford-brand tillage vertical system. The machine has a "wave" coulter and attachments that allow quick soil drying, which may be needed if farmers have a repeat of 2009's late planting.

Dick Hansen, a regional representative for Salford from Horace, N.D., boasts that the unit can go out into the fields five to eight days ahead of a field cultivator, Hansen says.

"You'll be able to work your soil and in three to five hours be out there with a planter behind it," Hansen says.

Some 800 units have been sold in the three-state area in the past three years. List price: $88,451 for a 41-footer. Hansen notes that the machines have kits for adding anhydrous ammonia or seeding. White heard that dealers that rent them out get $10 to $12 an acre for rent.

Hansen says the machine is vertical and doesn't run at any angle to move soil.

The coulters are in either eight-wave/20-inch diameter or a 13-wave/20-inch diameter coulter. The coulters are individually mounted and don't plug up and rocks don't bother them, Hansen says. The machine has a 1¼-inch-diameter shank that is all spring steel and has a triple-wrapped coil on the shank.

"We get 6 inches of vertical travel out of that coil, but it's also mounted in a mount so we pivot," he says. "As that coulter pivots, it can go around a stone, as well as over it."

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Others are working on similar competing concepts.

Bower notes that Case-IH is answering with a new, 42-foot wide 330 Turbo "vertical" tillage machine of its own, available in the spring of 2010.

"Just remember when you're pulling it, 9 or 10 miles an hour is what it likes," Bower says.

The wet, cold conditions are triggering other new technology.

Kevin Thorsness of Bayer CropScience was promoting Proceed, a new seed treatment to stave off seedling diseases in small grains, adding 2 to 3 bushels per acre yield increase. The stuff is available for on-farm use or commercial seed treaters and is available for the first time on winter wheat for 2010 production.

Some companies were getting an earful of complaints. One wheat seed marketer was fending off a constant stream of comments from farmers, wondering why their 2009 crop had such exceptionally low protein content -- and discounts.

Seed quality has an impact, the seed-seller noted, but bigger problem likely was the expensive fertilizer last fall. Some farmers prepared for a 40-bushel yield, not the 80-bushel-per-acre crop they achieved, leaving the protein content wanting.

Winter wheat program

Blake Vander Vorst, regional agronomist for Ducks Unlimited, updated ag reporters on a recent Bayer CropScience cooperative program that provides $20 million over five years to foster winter wheat production. The resarch and demonstration is designed to boost farm profits and wildlife habitat at the same time. He says the project is on-track but somewhat dampened by the late small grains harvest.

"Even some of our growers that are sold on the crop are struggling to get their current crop harvested," Vander Vorst says. "A lot of these guys don't want to stop and think about seeding at the same time they're harvesting. I think we could use some acres because of that."

In North Dakota, east-central and northeast areas probably will pick up some winter wheat production this fall, planted onto last year's corn land that was not planted because of wet conditions in 2009.

"Some of the guys will plant winter wheat as a cover crop, and in a lot of years, that'll make it," he says.

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