Working out the rotation sometimes calls for some innovative shop work to configure planting equipment to plant corn, cotton, soybeans, peanuts and now grain sorghum. Hinson is a self-professed tinkerer and admits he’s pretty good in a machine shop.

We were trying to plant narrow-row beans and different row widths for different crops, and we ended up with tractors on 80-inch spacing and another on 60-inch spacing, and I just hated having to consistently make changes with our planting equipment, Hinson says.

Now that he’s back in the corn business, the trend is to plant in narrow-rows.  “I just wasn’t going to invest in a new corn combine. The solution was to design and build, or alter existing equipment to end up with a corn planting system that best fits his operation.

“The whole idea for designing a new corn planter came after riding with my son while he was picking some corn planted on 30-inch rows. I remember thinking — that’s some of the best corn I’ve ever seen,” Hinson says.

“If you look at current corn harvesting data for South Carolina, it seems you can increase yield by going from 40-inch to 30-inch rows and you can pick up 15 percent yield and another 15 percent by going to 20-inch rows. That seems to back up what we were seeing in combining corn on 30-inch rows,” he adds.

Approaching the challenge of designing a new corn planter with his typical out-of-the-box thinking, Hinson built two seven row planters, one for himself and one for his son. These planters have 28-inches where the tractor tires are located and 24 inches between the inside rows and 24 inches on the outside rows.

He added a six-row, narrow-row John Deere 630 header and added another junk header to make a seven row corn header. Row widths range between 24-28 inches wide, and average row widths are about 25.2 inches.

So far, he says, the corn planter/harvester system has worked better than expected. “We’ve cut some of the best corn we’ve ever grown on this farm, and the whole system works great — looks a little odd, but works great,” he says.

Putting his altered farm equipment to best use has been one of Hinson’s best steps outside the bounds of routine crop planting procedures in the South Carolina PeeDee.

He has gone to an early burn-down of 20-inch rows of winter cover crops, primarily wheat. Then, he waits as late as he can to burn down the cover crop in the middle of the rows.

This provides maximum cover and residue on half the land and a better seed zone in which to plant on the other half.

“It works great for us!” Hinson says. For the 2012 crop about 80 percent of his land will be in this unique planting system, he adds.

Next year Hinson plans to add GPS equipment to his tractors. For most growers guidance systems would be a time and labor saver. For Hinson, it will still provide those benefits, but also offer plenty of options for adapting equipment to do specific jobs on his farm.

rroberson@farmpress.com