A Golden Age For Application Equipment

When discussing the state of the ag retail and agricultural markets, much of the talk usually turns to such high profile topics as outstanding commodity prices, crop nutrient applications and seed choices. One area that doesn’t come up as often — but remains just as important to overall health of the industry — is equipment.

“It’s true that many of the decisions we make as ag retailers each season start with the crop inputs, but you can’t overlook the machines we use to store, deliver and apply these,” says Doyle Pearl, co-owner/general manager for J.B. Pearl Sales & Service Inc., St. Marys, KS. “Having good, reliable equipment is just as important, if not more so. Without these, we couldn’t do our jobs as retailers to our grower-customers.”

And this market reality has kept the ag retail equipment industry humming for quite some time. Over the past few years, with corn acreage and overall commodity prices on the rise, grower-customers have spent a lot of their income on crop inputs such as fertilizer and crop protection products. In turn, this has kept ag retailers scrambling to not only supply these products to their customers, but have the machines in their fleets to deliver and apply it as well.

For evidence of this trend, you need look no further than some figures gathered from the annual CropLife 100 report. Over the past several surveys, the percentage of CropLife 100 retailers who have purchased new equipment for their operations has steadily grown. In the 2011 CropLife 100 survey, 79% of respondents said they planned to buy new equipment for their outlets during the coming year. By the end of 2012, this figure had improved to 86%. During the most recent CropLife 100 survey, conducted this past September, the number of ag retailers planning to purchase new equipment in 2014 had grown to 88%.

These kinds of numbers are borne out by some from the ag retail equipment manufacturers themselves. Over many of the past three years, the companies that supply units to retailers have consistently reported the elapsed time from an order being placed to delivery for their customers is in the six- to nine-month range. Some manufacturers say it is closer to one year.

“We are very, very busy right now filling orders,” said one manufacturer at the recent Agricultural Retailers Association meeting in early December. “If someone placed a new order with us today, it would be close to 2015 before they would receive delivery of that product.”

The Reasons For Buying

For many ag retailers, buying new equipment each season comes down to a simple numbers game. “We upgrade based on the age of our equipment,” says Scott Firlus, COO for Allied Cooperative, Adams, WI. “Five years is the typical length of time we keep an applicator, for instance.”

Other retailers have an even shorter replacement cycle in place, depending upon the equipment involved. “Our records show that application equipment needs to be traded every three years or maintenance costs raise higher than the costs of trading,” says Tom Fullenkamp, CEO for Golden Furrow Fertilizer Inc., Eldon, IA. “We continually buy anhydrous ammonia tanks, bars and meters each year to expand for higher demand.”

A few ag retailers kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, when buying new units each season. “Most of our equipment purchases are to replace equipment,” says Frank Schumacher, agronomy division manager for Mountain View Cooperative Inc., Black Eagle, MT. “However, in the last few years, we have been replacing and upgrading equipment at the same time. You have to replace equipment at some point in time and upgrades are partially standard procedure and needed to keep up with our producers.”

As for what kind of equipment upgrades most ag retailers are looking for, it boils down to a single word: Technology. “We want our equipment fully loaded,” says Karl Hensley, senior vice president of agronomy for Central Valley Ag Cooperative, O’Neill, NE. “We get all the technology available.”

And this covers a lot more ground than it used to, say ag retailers. A mere 10 years ago, high technology on a self-propelled sprayer likely consisted of a yield monitor and in-cab controller. Today, however, a cab is likely to contain GPS tracking systems, automatic steering systems and individual boom-shut off controls, to name a few.

“We need autosteer, fleet tracking and multiple bin variable-rate technology as well as float and row crop tires on our new dry machines,” says Allied Cooperative’s Firlus. “On sprayers, we need autosteer, fleet tracking and different boom sections based on the crops.”

Coupled with this trend towards more technology in ag retail equipment has been an increase in unit sizes. In recent years, sprayers that have 120-foot booms have become standard with product solution tanks often holding in excess of 1,000 gallons. Spreaders and tenders have also increased in size with multiple bins options and 24-ton capacity units becoming much more common.

However, not all ag retailers are looking for larger equipment. According to Bill Hubbell, general manager for Wilco-Winfield, LLC, Mt. Angel, OR, there are some parts of the country where larger machines can’t service often wet fields as easily as smaller units can. “The focus has moved to covering a large number of acres per day for us,” says Hubbell. “To do this effectively, we need lighter equipment that can run 12 months a year.”

Several manufacturers have apparently caught onto this trend. For 2014, many of the new self-propelled sprayers from AGCO Corp. and Case IH feature smaller product tanks (in the 700 to 800 gallon range) and are lighter weight than previous models.

The Service Question

Despite the many changes to the machines themselves, all ag retailers agree that the one area that ultimately influences their purchase decision is service.

“This is huge, huge,” says Golden Furrow’s Fullenkamp. “If there’s no reliable service available to us, then there’s no purchase being made.”

And while some retailers supplement their equipment service needs by stocking up on their replacement part inventories, the lack of access to reliable service from the equipment dealer is a major factor when it comes to buying new units for their fleets.

“Good service is critical,” says Central Valley Ag’s Hensley. “Having knowledgeable service people and timely service is part of our decision-making on all purchases.”

Leave a Reply

Special Reports Stories

Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionEnhancing In-Season Nitrogen Use Efficiency Is In The Details
May 5, 2016
Spring is here and crops are in the ground. Do you have a plan for your nitrogen during the growing Read More
AJ Sackett HIM Mixer
Crop NutritionFertilizer Additives: TLC In Blending
April 2, 2016
Blending additives in fertilizer systems has gotten more challenging as their number and complexity has grown. “There is a huge Read More
Verdesian TO_BrandFamily
Crop NutritionCrop Nutrition: Selling The Value In Additives And Enhancers
April 1, 2016
Market highs and lows can both drive an increased interest in new products — ones that add more yield potential Read More
Liquid Tanks at Asmus Farm Supply
Crop NutritionAsmus Farm Supply: The Importance Of Good Partners And Crop Nutrition
March 31, 2016
As one of the nation’s CropLife 100 ag retailers, Asmus Farm Supply (AFS) has spent most of its 50-plus years Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
HerbicidesHerbicide Resistance In Waterhemp Continues To Grow
April 22, 2016
Twenty-five years ago, waterhemp was virtually unknown to Illinois farmers. Today, the broadleaf weed blankets corn and soybean fields across Read More
Eric SfiligojBiotech Corn Drop More Economics Vs. Consumer Rejection
April 18, 2016
Since their introduction into the agricultural marketplace, biotech crops has steadily grown in acreage in the countries of the world Read More
Crop InputsBayer: 5 Reasons We Disagree With Maryland Neonic Ban
April 12, 2016
We’re disappointed that the Maryland legislature chose not to stand up for sound science and the rights of Maryland’s homeowners Read More
Corn
OpinionChallenging Global Economic Conditions Putting More Heat On U.S. Ag Retailers
April 7, 2016
There it is. That vague, slightly sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Things are getting weird out there. Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Closeup
FungicidesSummer Fungicides: Still A Difficult Sell
May 6, 2016
About a dozen years ago, Asian soybean rust (ASR) was working its way up to the U.S. from South America, where Read More
ManagementGlyphosate, GMOs, and Plantings
May 6, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj look at the latest news surrounding the ongoing glyphosate debate, biotech crops, and how Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionEnhancing In-Season Nitrogen Use Efficiency Is In The D…
May 5, 2016
Spring is here and crops are in the ground. Do you have a plan for your nitrogen during the growing Read More
ID3 Air Induction Flat Spray Nozzle | Lechler
Nozzles2016 Nozzles And Tips Report: Waste Watchers
May 5, 2016
Every year in the spring, ag retailers and their grower-customers prepare for the coming crop season. This involves prepping crop Read More
Industry NewsHELM AGRO Adds New Marketing & Business Development…
May 4, 2016
HELM AGRO US, Inc. has announced the hiring of Troy Bettner as the company’s new Marketing & Business Development Leader. Bettner Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncont…
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Spray Drift
HerbicidesRoundup Ready Xtend: Silver Linings In Label Delays For…
May 4, 2016
Since 2014, Monsanto has trained more than 20,000 growers and retailers on all aspects of its new dicamba-tolerant system at Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsSyngenta Board Appoints New CEO
May 4, 2016
Syngenta announced today the appointment of J. Erik Fyrwald, currently President and CEO of the U.S. chemistry distribution company Univar Read More
Crop InputsIntrexon Establishes Crop Protection Enterprise
May 4, 2016
Intrexon Corp., a leader in synthetic biology, has announced the formation of Intrexon Crop Protection (ICP), a wholly-owned subsidiary dedicated to Read More
Patriot 4440 Sprayer close up
ManagementFlashing Back And Moving Forward On Spray Drift
May 3, 2016
The potential for pesticide drift remains an unavoidable feature of modern agriculture. Here, too, history repeats itself. “When Roundup debuted, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesSurvey Provides Insights On Giant Ragweed In The Corn B…
May 2, 2016
A new survey published in the journal Weed Science offers insights into the distribution and management of giant ragweed, a Read More
Truck dumping dry fertilizer
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics Q&A: Southern States’ Joe Wlod…
May 2, 2016
Joe Wlodkoski, Director of Agronomy Procurement, Fertilizer, Southern States Cooperative, is a 40-plus year fertilizer industry veteran. He is quite Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
West Central Dome structure
FertilizerFertilizer Logistics 2016: All Clear, So Far
May 1, 2016
After a relatively hairy early start to the spring fertilizer movement season with flooding in Louisiana and St. Louis, things Read More
BAICOR
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Utah Specialty Fertilizer Company
April 28, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty ag products, has acquired a majority interest in BAICOR, L.C. BAICOR, Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Adds Vice President Of Business…
April 28, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences has announced the addition of Marc Treurniet to the plant health and nutrition company’s management team. Treurniet Read More
ManagementBiotech Crops Developments and Millennials
April 28, 2016
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf talk about the latest activities in biotech crops and a major shift in the Read More
Industry NewsNachurs-Alpine, Pathway Biologic Extend Marketing Agree…
April 28, 2016
Nachurs-Alpine Solutions (Marion, OH) and Pathway Biologic (Plant City, FL) announce an extension to their exclusive marketing agreement specific to Read More