The University of Illinois Extension Service recently released results of a study examining planter costs on different-sized farms. The upshot? Bigger planters can be better, but not always.

“Planting more hours per day could result in a smaller planter size having lower costs,” says Gary Schnitkey, the U of I Extension farm management specialist who conducted the study.

The study evaluated farm sizes from 400 to 4,000 acres in 400-acre increments. Planter sizes ranged from six rows up to 36 rows. Planters were assumed to plant all acres with all acres evenly split between corn and soybeans.

“Two categories of costs were included in the analysis,” Schnitkey explains. “These were timeliness and power costs. Timeliness costs account for yield losses from not planting near optimal times. Power costs include depreciation, interest, repairs, housing, insurance, fuel and lubrication, and labor. Power costs were calculated for the planter and the tractor to pull the planter.”

According to the study, on the basis of power costs alone, the eight-row planter has the lowest costs for 400- to 800-acre farms. The 12-row planter has the lowest costs for 1,200 to 2,800 acres, and the 16-row planter has the lowest costs for farms of 3,200 to 4,000 acres.

“However, when timeliness is factored in, costs change,” Schnitkey says. “For example, a 36-row planter has the lowest cost for the 3,200 acres and above sizes when timeliness costs are included. When only power costs are included, a 16-row planter has lower costs for 3,200 acres and above farm sizes.”

For the full report, log on to www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/manage/newsletters/fefo04_05/fefo04_05.html.