John Engram, who is both a farmer and a dealer for twin-row planter maker Monosem, gets to practice what he preaches.
Engram farms corn, beans, cotton, wheat and milo in southeastern Missouri at Sikeston. His row crops are all planted with a Monosem NG Plus twin-row planter — the same one he also markets as a Monosem dealer.
“I've used twin-row since 1993 and see numerous advantages with it,” Engram says. “You get an earlier canopy established, you have less weed pressure, you keep moisture in the middle of the row, plants face less stress and you can harvest twin-row corn or soybeans using the same headers you would use with single-row crops.”
Growers are seeing 10 to 12% better corn yields from using the Great Plains Yield-Pro bulk loading system of twin-row planters, says Mike Cleveland, national sales manager of Great Plains Manufacturing. “There is a better root structure because plants are spread further apart,” he says. “That enables plants to be healthier.”
In a typical twin-row system, crops are planted with a staggered seed drop, allowing for more growing room and quicker canopy than in a single-row system. Twin rows are precision planted with design to plant the same amount of seed per acre as when single rows are used.
Twin rows are typically planted 7½ to 8 in. apart on 30-, 38- or 40-in. centers. Seed spacing is much wider. For example, in a 28,000-plant population in corn, twin-row will see about a 15-in. spacing, compared to about 7½ in. for a single 30-in.-row crop. For a 38,000-plant population, spacing would be about 11 in. with a twin-row system and 5½ in. for single 30-in. rows. Seeds are usually in a triangle pattern.
Monosem twin-row planters
Monosem and Great Plains are major players in the twin-row game, even though some other planters can be configured for twin-row applications. Kinze recently launched a new twin-row line (see sidebar).
Monosem planters feature a 7- × 7-in. toolbar and 5- × 5-in. top bar for both tractor-mounted and pull-type units. Monosem units are vacuum metered and feature a stainless steel seed disc. A turbofan features a 500- or 950-rpm unit, with PTO or hydraulic drive.
The planter's ground drive system has two drive wheels or four drive wheels on eight- and 12-row units. There is also an optional hydraulic variable-rate drive. The hitch system can be narrow or wide, with bolt-on and adjustable lower links on the bottom toolbar and top link on the top bar. Options include a liquid insecticide system, air insecticide system and an electronic seed monitor.
“The planter is designed so that its staggered row units allow for planting twin rows in a single pass,” says Engram, who was expecting his best soybean crop ever. (In the past he has won the state soybean yield contest with production approaching 90 bu./acre.) “And depending on the type of variety, we've seen as low as a 5% increase in corn yields and up to 30% for varieties which work better on the twin-row system.”
Corn plant populations can be increased 10 to 15% in a twin-row system to enhance yields.
“For soybeans, we plant the same plant population as we would with a single-row planter,” Engram says. “We just divide that number in half and plant the twin rows accordingly.”
Great Plains Yield-Pro
Cleveland, who like Engram has worked with twin-row planters for more than six years, says the Great Plains Yield-Pro units' bulk seed box container fits directly onto the back of the planter. Bulk boxes hold 50 units of seed or about 42 bu. If bulk seed boxes aren't available, Great Plains offers bulk poly hoppers, which hold 82 or 150 bu. The planter also offers an optional 400-gal. starter fertilizer system.
Planters are available in 12-row, pull-type, 16-row three-point stack fold, 16-row pull-type and its newest 24-row, pull-type, 60-ft.-wide unit.
“An air manifold delivers seed to mini-row unit hoppers without any moving parts,” Cleveland says. He adds that the unit features interchangeable Precision Planting finger-pickup meters for corn or the Great Plains Singular Plus meters for soybeans, milo and other crops.
The Yield-Pro features 25-series openers with 15-in., offset, 4-mm double-disc blades with choice of 2.5-, 3- or 4-in. side-depth wheels, depending on row spacing.
Cleveland says one advantage of twin-row planting is the ability to get more from the area covered. “With the ability to lay down a perfect triangle with the Yield-Pro units, you can push the spread of plants to more than 40% of coverage before roots compete for space with a 30,000 corn plant population,” he says. “That compares to about 18% of coverage before roots will complete in a 30-in.-row program. With the better root structure, plants can develop a bigger stalk.”
He says that in “independent tests” this more room to grow shows that twin-row can outyield 30-in. corn in areas across the Corn Belt and South, ranging from 8.5 bu./acre in Ohio and 17.5 bu. in Indiana to 25 bu./acre in Nebraska and 33.5 bu./acre in Mississippi.
University tests vary on the benefits of twin-row crops over narrow-row and 30-in. systems. Research at Iowa State University shows no significant yield difference between a twin-row configuration and 30-in. rows.
Also, in Wisconsin, twin-row and 30-in. had comparable yields. Twin-row corn with a 33,000 plant population yielded 228 bu./acre, compared to 223 bu. on 30-in. rows with the same planting rate. In a 36,000 planting rate, twin-row yielded 207 bu., compared to 205 bu. for 30-in. at 33,000.
In Ohio State University soybean tests, twin-row beans were comparable to ultra-narrow-row and outyielded 30-in. beans. In the 2006 OSU tests, twin-row beans had a 54.4-bu./acre yield, compared to about 56 bu./acre for 7.5-in. rows and 15-in. rows and 50 bu./acre for 30-in. rows.
Prices for these twin-row units vary according to their row width and number of options. Cleveland says the price of the Great Plains 12-row base machine, with each row including the twin planting setup, is around $100,000. The base price of the 16-row unit is about $120,000, and a 24-row machine costs about $160,000.
Engram says the Monosem 16-row twin that goes on eight-row beds is about $65,000 for the base unit. The 24-row twin unit that goes on a 12-row bed is about $95,000. He says Monosem is also adding a center-fill bulk option to the planters.
KINZE ENTERED the twin-row ball game last summer with the launch of the Kinze 3600V Twin-Line planters. They're available in 12-row N and 16-row N sizes with mechanical or vacuum seed metering. They feature the new Kinze Vision planter control system, which uses a full-color touch-screen display to manage Kinze's electronic seed monitoring, plus Kinze's all-new variable-rate hydraulic drive system and air-actuated, single-row clutches for manual or GPS auto-swath control.
Kinze President Jon Kinzenbaw says the company developed the control system in partnership with Ag Leader Technology. It uses a variation of Ag Leader's popular Insight display. “This will lower seed costs, reduce field time and maximize the yield potential of every seed [farmers] plant,” Kinzenbaw says.
Integral parts of the Kinze Vision system are air-actuated, single-row clutches tied into each row unit for manual or GPS auto-swath control.
The planter features a double 5- × 7-in. toolbar frame construction with heavy-duty wing hinges and industrial-quality hydraulic cylinders. The wing sections, four-row for 12-row units and six-row sections on 16-row units, are hinged to the four-row center section. The two wing sections can flex 7° up or down and are hydraulically locked for transport.