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

An aerial shot of the new facility at Green Valley Ag in Wayland, MI. The company wanted rail access and increased storage capacity.
Retail FacilitiesA Celebration Of Facilities
July 7, 2014
Ag retailers have been building new outlets for several years — and it’s time to take a closer look at some of the industry’s new showpiece locations. Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Develops Efficient Liquid Fertilizer Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 8, 2014
Heritage Cooperative needed an efficient fertilizer plant. And with help from A&B Welding, that’s exactly what the company got. Read More
Retail FacilitiesNew Ag Retail Facilities: The Importance Of Pre-Planning
July 7, 2014
Recognizing the need for a new facility is only half the battle, say industry insiders. Before the first scoop of dirt comes out of the ground, there are plenty of other details that need to be worked out. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More