A History of Corn: Corn Planters and the Corn Belt's Check-row Revolution

Let's Talk Rusty Iron: In this last installment of his history of corn planting technology, Sam Moore examines farmers' use of the check-row wire planter in the large fields of the Corn Belt.

| January 2004

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    The result of check-row planting
    Courtesy Sam Moore
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    Massey-Harris Power Drive Corn Planter
    Courtesy Sam Moore

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Editor's note: This is the third installment in a series about planting, cultivating and harvesting corn, and focuses on mechanical check-row planters. Click here to read part one, or here to read part two.

Looking out at the flying leaves and spitting snow here in Ohio, it's difficult to think of spring planting. However, to continue the corn theme for one more month, here's the story of planting corn in check rows, a method used in most of the Corn Belt until herbicides replaced mechanical weed control.

In western Pennsylvania where I grew up, corn was drilled in 42-inch rows and not check-rowed. The average width of a horse was 42 inches, and a horse had to fit between the rows of corn to pull a cultivator, so the rows were planted 42 inches apart. We originally used a horse-drawn John Deere 919 two-row planter. Later, we cut off the planter's long tongue and pulled it with a Ford-Ferguson tractor. Ultimately, the planter was converted again for use with a three-point hitch.

Sam discovers danger lurks in the corn field

I was probably 4 or 5 years old the spring Dad nearly killed me. He was planting corn with a John Deere 919 drill-type planter and a team of horses in the 7-acre field just over the hill from our barn, with my Granddad Moore (who we kids called Nandad) and me as keen observers.

The two-row planter was equipped with a marker on each side to scratch a line in the dirt. This line guided the driver so the next two rows were the correct distance from those preceding them.

Each marker consisted of a steel disc on the end of a 4-foot-long steel pole that was hinged to each side of the planter. Levers, at the rear and just below the driver's seat, raised and lowered each marker. When the planter reached the end of the field, the driver raised the marker that had been down, turned his team 180 degrees to head back along the newly marked path for the next two rows and released the opposite marker lever, allowing that arm and disc to fall.

1/1/2015 1:41:48 PM

My Great-uncle August (A.L.A) Schiermeyer, Daykin, NE, Patented a Corn Planter Mar. 27, 1888--Pat #379,989. How can I determine if this was ever manufactured, and how my uncle profited?

12/2/2014 11:38:58 AM

i have 1898 first automatic cross check corn planter handheld proto type and all paperwork with it paten and paten applied for all financing paperwork also needs to be in a museum all is realy wonderfull shape actually amazing shape and a picture of inventer holding it harry schoonover where should i contact or find out about this


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