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  • Writer's pictureRachel

Commentary and Musings from the National Farm Machinery Show

I spent last Wednesday walking around the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY. If you’ve ever had the privilege of going, you know what a daunting spread that it. They tout the show as over 27 acres of equipment and booths. We managed to do it all in one day. And when I say “do it all in one day” we covered maybe 90% of it, and still probably missed more than we saw. Like I said…daunting.

I want to talk a little bit about one of the booths and its most popular item. While I should be talking about the Pioneer booth in all its glory, I am actually talking about the John Deere booth. John Deere always has quite the layout: their biggest tractor, most advanced combines, and most sophisticated planters. But this year was a little different. They brought one planter to display and it was getting A LOT of attention. People were swarming that thing, asking questions, taking row units apart, analyzing layouts, inspecting hoses and cable runs. Serious attention around that thing. So, what is the latest and greatest planter they brought to display? The JD 1745 MaxEmerge. An eight row planter with interplant bean units, hooked to a 4430. Yes, you read that right. They were displaying it with a 4430. (Which after the 4020, may be the most popular John Deere tractor of all time. Something like 74,000 units were sold. It was a beautifully maintained 4430, with a starfire GPS mounted on top. So fun to see a tractor of that era lined up in the shadow of the 8RX.)

Photo Credit: John Deere

The planter is fully customizable. Box configurations can be selected as 3 bushel bean boxes on all rows or traditional boxes with insecticide boxes on corn rows. You can ditch boxes completely and go for a central fill setup. Row units can be configured with finger pickups on all rows, or switch those out for vacuum meters. An additional toolbar sits to the front of the row units for a full fertilizer system, which is also optional. It is only offered in an 8 row (or 15 row with interplants) model right now, but word was they might consider a 6 or 12 row. The most notable feature however, was its transport mechanism. The planter picks up and turns in line with the tractor for a transport width narrower than the tractor duals. I was assured however, that this fold is NOT like a Kinze fold, but wasn’t really told much of a difference. 😊 Don’t quote me on this, but I think the stripped-down model, with finger pickups, possibly ditching the fertilizer system entirely, would run about $60,000.

I thought it was an interesting marketing move on John Deere’s part to bring this relatively simple, small planter as it’s only planter in the booth. Competitors had their latest and greatest. Kinze was showcasing their 24 row 4905 planter with what they call True Speed. (I was again assured at their booth that they were NOT the same as the John Deere Exact Emerge.) So, why the small 8 row, box type planter, reminiscent of the good old JD 7000? It’s no secret that the last couple years have been tough on the ag industry. Equipment purchases have decreased the last couple years, and within the past year, John Deere itself has gone through some rounds of layoffs. I think it is fairly telling of the state of agriculture, that 1. This was the tractor John Deere chose to showcase and 2. That there was as much traffic and interest around it as there was. Apparently, the demand is there for planters that can be pulled with older tractors, and for a more simplistic machine that can better fit in producers’ budgets. I mean, $60,000 isn’t nothing, but it’s an entirely different story than the $200,000 you could easily drop on one of their other new models. It’ll be interesting to watch as they take orders starting in June.

(All the biggest and best equipment on display. Rachel for scale.)

Things have certainly changed in the last 70 years of agriculture. Can you imagine attending one of the first farm shows in the 60’s and seeing the new JD 4020, or a new IH806? (I honestly don’t even know if John Deere or International Harvester was at the first show in 1966…) Compare that today to the absolutely MASSIVE 8RX on display at the farm show. (So maybe my whole premise about their booth being telling of the state of ag is bogus. The 8RX price comes in at $487,000! I wonder how many of those they will sell vs lease….) Interestingly, a speech by the Edward T. Breathitt, the governor of Kentucky in 1966, talks about what he saw in the future of agriculture. He was opening the first farm show on February 15th, 1966. He mentions that the “day of the straw chewing farmer is over” and that “today he is a big businessman with production assets per farm totaling $65,000 or $32,000 per farm worker.” I think my favorite prediction was this: “I’m told that scientists now are thinking of even heavier-duty nuclear-powered tractors which will be fueled at the factory and run a lifetime with only yearly recharging.” I guess he would still be waiting on that one. Another prediction was that plows would have controlled vibrations to energize their cutting edge. He also mentioned that in 1966, farmers owned 4.5 million tractors that replaced 22 million work animals and 76 million acres that would have been grown to feed them. I’m sure seeing all that equipment in one place for the first time was pretty thrilling for the agriculture industry. Do you know anyone who attended one of the early shows? We need to hear their firsthand account! Breathitt ended his speech with this: “Let us build this show into an annual event that will attract people from all over the country to see the latest and best in agriculture.” Well, I think they succeeded.

I was thinking on this driving home from the farm show. With all the surprising interest around the 1745 MaxEmerge, what would the average farmer want to see at the 2021 farm show? Is it something simple and paired down like that? Is it another big 24 row planter, or the biggest Ideal combine? A nuclear powered tractor? What would you most want to see at a farm show? What equipment would stand out to you the most and be most impactful for your operation? I’d love to hear your answers! Leave a comment below.


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