A new row unit, claimed to be strong enough for the toughest conditions, is the heart of Kinze's new nine-model 3000 series planters.

On July 15, a day before its annual dealer meeting, Kinze Manufacturing gave journalists a sneak peak at its new 3000 series planters to be on display at farm shows this fall.

The event was held at company headquarters outside Williamsburg, IA, marked by a bright blue grain wagon affixed to a tall pole. The entire grounds were roped off, except for a small gravel road that led to a valley of white tents below.

Inside the main tent, Dennis Whitehead, marketing manager for Kinze, stood behind the podium: "We have a brand-new product line to create excitement in an otherwise lackluster market this year," Whitehead said. "And the name of the product still says Kinze."

On either side of him was a table supporting a new planter row unit draped in blue satin sheets. He explained that the new row unit is the heart of the new 3000 series planters.

Two Kinze representatives from each side of the stage pulled off the sheets and took turns pointing out features that make the new unit better than the old one used in the former 2000 series.

Fourteen row unit changes. For starters, the new row unit has load-equalizing gauge wheels that provide for more consistent seed placement, even in heavy residue or rugged planting conditions.

"Because of the continuing and increasing use of no till and reduced till or high-residue applications, we wanted to get out there with both equalizing gauge wheels to smooth that unit out and provide heavier double disc openers," Whitehead said.

The opener blades are 20percent heavier than the previous ones for longer life and are held in place by precision cast mounting. The row-unit shank assembly was retooled for greater side load strength.

Because the unit has a replaceable pivot pin on the gauge wheel arm and bushings and grease seals, the whole arm doesn't need to be replaced if only certain parts are worn.

Molded wheel covers, previously an option, are now standard on the 3000 series to protect against rock damage and prevent "rooster tailing" common in light soils. A new cast adjustment rack with a spring-loaded handle makes it easier to fine-tune depth from _1/2 to 3_1/2 in.

"At the same time, the new unit provides for easier clean out of our seed hoppers and increased capacity in that hopper," Whitehead explained. The new hopper is precision molded to make it stronger than the old fiberglass design and to eliminate the bolt-on hardware previously required. Plus, it has 18 percent more seed-holding capacity.

The hopper is translucent so you can tell at a glance how much seed is left. And because it is streamlined, there are no ledges for the seed to get hung up on during planting.

Finally, a new, shorter row-unit hopper support gives you more room to work around narrow-spaced row units. A granular chemical hopper is available as an option.

Nine new planter models. The new row unit will be a part of all nine models of the 3000 series planters. These models are basically the same as the 2000 series introduced in 1991 with two exceptions. The 3400 Twin Line replaces the 2400, which was introduced in limited supply for the 1999 planting season. The 2400 was Kinze's first planter capable of ultra-narrow row spacing of 10 or 11 in. due to a patented Interplant feature in which a second tier of row units is placed between the main row units.

Model 3000 Pull-Type, when equipped with Interplant, features a new hitch design and a new hydraulic lift in place of the rock-shaft for easier lifting and improved field and transport clearance.

Here's a quick review of all the new models and the niche each one fills.

3000 Pull-Type: This model replaces the 2000 and "is designed for the small- to medium-acreage operator looking for good economy in a 4-, 6- or 8-row narrow or 4- or 6-row wide planter that can be equipped to do anything he wants to do," Whitehead said. It is the only planter in Kinze's lineup that can accommodate both the Interplant system and a fertilizer package at the same time. Base list price: 8,683 dollars to 14,814 dollars.

3100, 3120, 3140: These three models are mounted on a tractor's 3-pt. hitch rather than pulled behind the tractor. "It fits those farmers who are into center pivot or flood irrigation planting where they need to keep the wheels off the ground so as not to disturb their flood or drip irrigation furrows," Whitehead explained.

The 3100 Rigid Frame is available in 4-, 6-, 8- or 10-row narrow or 4-,6- or 8-row wide spacing. The 3120 Vertical Fold comes in 8- or 12-row narrow or 8-row wide spacing. The 3140 Stack-Folding comes in 8-, 12- or 16-row narrow or 8- or 12-row wide spacing. Base list price: 6,658 dollars to 30,642 dollars.

3200 Econo-Fold: This pull-type model, which replaces the 2210, is designed for the farmer who wants an economical, 8-row wide or 12-row, 30-in. narrow planter flexible enough to handle rolling terrain. Base list price: 21,842 dollars to 26,218 dollars.

3400 Twin Line: This 12-row pull-type planter offers 20- or 22-in. row spacing with the capability of splitting those spacings to get down to 10 or 11 in. for ultra-narrow row crops, achieved with Kinze's Inter-plant system. As an alternative to Interplant, you can equip the 12-row planter with a liquid fertilizer package.

For transport, the toolbar lifts and rotates to run in line with the tractor at a width as narrow as 11 ft. 3 in. Base list price: 31,860 dollars.

3500 Twin Line: It is positioned as a cost-effective, 6- or 8-row narrow rigid frame for growers in high-traffic or narrow-road areas where transport width is a problem. It features a transport width of 11 ft. 2 in. and will accommodate Interplant or a liquid/dry fertilizer package. Base list price: 19,794 dollars to 22,001 dollars.

3600 Twin Line: "This is really our flagship product for that high-acreage operator who needs narrow-transport, high-capacity, high-acreage capability with the ability to use either fertilizer or the Interplant system," Whitehead said. It comes in 12- or 16-row narrow or 8- or 12-row wide spacing and transports as narrow as 11 ft. 2 in. Base list price: 29,267 dollars to 51,139 dollars.

3700 Front Folding: Designed for the large-acreage operator who does not need on-board fertilizer capability, this model measures from 40 up to 60 ft. Choose from 16- or 24-row, 30-in. spacing or 24- or 36-row, 20-in. spacing. Base list price: 58,545 dollars to 95,001 dollars.

For more information, contact Kinze Mfg. Inc., Dept. FIN, I-80 at Exit 216, Williamsburg, IA 52361, 319/668-1300.