Holmes County, Miss., farmer Keith Killebrew took note of the alternative way his neighbor was planting soybeans this season, and incorporated the method in his crops.
“I saw how he planted one row and moved the hitch over 4 inches for another row, and then I saw how well the plants blossomed,” Killebrew said.
Ultimately, Killebrew and his twin brother, Heath, elected to purchase a 12-inch, twin-row planter that would give them a similar advantage.
The twin-row planter costs about 50 percent more than the traditional planter system. However, because its design creates a staggered seed drop, it can lead to various economic advantages, including improved canopy, less disease, increased yield and crop uniformity.
Presently, Monosem is the only manufacturer of a 12-inch, twin-row planter.
Heath said the brothers deliberated over making the pricey investment, but calculated that the savings the twin-row planter could generate would justify the cost.
The Killebrews used the twin-row to plant 3,500 acres of soybeans, 100 acres of twin-row, skip-row cotton and 2,000 acres of single-row cotton.
“If we save on Roundup (sprays) it will make a difference,” he said. “And over the long run the savings will pay for the planter.”
The popularity of the 12-inch, twin-row planter is emerging as a new pattern, at least in the Delta.
Robert Wilson, an independent farm equipment representative, and Jay Rose, employee with Ayers-Delta Implement Inc., covering Belzoni, Lexington and Greenwood, Miss., both have sold twin-planters to a growing list of clients over the past year, including the Killebrews.
Interest in the area is growing fast, both conveyed. Wilson, based out of Missouri, said the trend is regional. “In southeast Arkansas six years ago there were no twin-rows. Today it dominates that area,” he said. “Twin-row is still a new concept to many farmers, and farmers can be slow to change.”
But Rose said once word spreads — particularly during harvesting — about a few farmers' success from using a new machine or practice, nearby farmers quickly adopt and conform. He anticipates that will happen with the 12-inch, twin-row planter.
Wilson said that several years ago, Georgia peanut growers were among the first farmers to use the twin-row planters, reaping the benefits of less disease and greater yields.
“Slowly, the twin-rows worked this way,” he said.
Wilson said that because the twin-row planter enables a farmer to plant twice as many seeds in one sweep, it improves scheduling proficiency for the entire operation.
“The ability to pick five or six days quicker can pay dividends with yield when you are racing against bad weather or hurricane season,” he said.
Rose said farmers appreciate the twin-row's dual capability for twin-row or single row planting, as well as its effectiveness on both premium soil and less desirable soil.
Morgan City, Miss., farmer Neil Pillow said he and his brother, Stephen, recently were convinced to purchase a twin-row planter because of its versatility and ability to create extra-width space within rows.
They had planted with a conventional planter, but sought help to gain some preferred width in their seed spacing.
Stephen said they have been impressed by the planter's flexibility and precision after using it to plant about half of their farm's 5,000 soybean acres.
“We planted (12-inch, twin-row) on flat (soil) and on a bed, on no-till and on maximum till,” Steven said.
“Its versatility allows us do whatever we want to do,” added Neil.
Neil said that by using the twin-row planter, soybeans are less likely to canopy prematurely — a problem the family-farm Wolf River Plantation and Sons Planting Co. has contended with in past seasons.
Furthermore, he said, using the twin-row planter provides growth “insurance” that a zone in the field or specific row won't be completely devoid of crop maturation.
“It gives the assurance that we won't have a blank space of zero growth,” he said.
The brothers agreed that the twin-row planter should save them from spraying a second or third Roundup application. It also means a savings in labor costs.
They have enough confidence about their investment that they are already planning to use it to plant their corn next season.
The equipment's durability is a feature that attracted Isola, Miss., farmer Ashley Millican.
He was already a fourth of the way into his planting period, when after discussing the change with the Pillows, Millican purchased a twin-row planter. He recently used it to plant 2,500 acres of soybeans and 100 acres of cotton on what he described as primarily marginal ground quality.
He too said using the twin-planter should cut his fuel usage — especially with the recent spike in fuel costs — in half, and help reduce scheduling pressures.
“Over time this will pay off,” he said. “Plus, someone has to be the guinea pig for the first few years with something new.
“I'll try anything to save costs and improve efficiency.”