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What is Pulling that Planter?

3/22/2021
Earlier last summer, while checking fields on a drive with my dad, he pointed out low strips running the length of our neighbor’s corn field, equally spaced about every 100 feet. He explained that our neighbor had purchased a new 48 row planter, and the weight from the central fill and large four-wheel drive tractor pulling it had caused compaction in those rows. We began debating the pros and cons of such a large planter. There are consequences to every decision and farm equipment is no different. It is just a matter of understanding all the facts and implications for your operation. Since I was riding shotgun, I pulled up Iron Comps Insights on my phone to understand the value of one of these 48, or even a 36, row planter. There were some surprisingly good deals that other farmers had found at auction, especially relative to what a new one would cost. For example, just last year, a good conditioned 36 row Kinze 3700 sold for just $22K.
Besides price, another important consideration with implements this large is ‘how are you going to pull it?’ Some manufacturers recommend at least 350 horses to pull a 48 row planter. This can force an operation to add more horsepower per acre than what they originally planned.
Curious to know the difference in the horsepower of farmers’ tractors between those who own a large (36 or 48 row) planter compared to those with a more moderate 24 row, I dove into Iron Comps. Our Insights tool was essential for this because of its ability to filter auctions by type. Setting the filter to only include estate and retirement auctions ensures that we are only investigating individual farmers’ fleets and not a random collection of many farmers’ implements at a consignment auction. Finally, I split those auctions in two groups. The first sold 24 row planters and the second sold 36 or 48 row planters. Of those two auction groups, I looked through the data to see what percentage of tractors sold were in different horsepower ranges. You can see the results in the graphs below.
There is no doubt that the larger planters require a larger tractor. What may be most surprising is that the farms that had a large planter had such a small proportion of tractors with less than 300 horsepower.
A 24 row may only be half the width of a large planter, but is still not a small implement. For those auctions that sold a 24 row planter, you find a significantly increased horsepower compared with all tractors sold at retirement and estate auctions, as seen in the bottom graph.
As we approach planting season and if you have a need, know there are a good number of quality planters on the market. Just make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than what your operation can handle!

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