Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Benefits of Strip Tillage

If someone were to show you a soil tillage method that could not only save you time and money, but also protect the integrity of your land, would you consider giving it a try? In the eyes of many soil conservationists and agricultural professionals, a relatively new method could be the answer to successful planting with minimal soil disturbance.

The practice is strip tillage, a system that lies halfway between full- and no-till methods, and many who have tried it have never looked back. The use of strip till tools and machinery offers the following benefits:

•    Improving soil health
•    Enhancing moisture retention
•    Keeping carbon residue safely buried
•    Encouraging seed-to-soil contact
•    Reducing erosion
•    Protecting young plants from wind and drought

In addition, the greater crop yields that can result will have a positive effect on the bottom line of any farming operation. To get an idea of how the method works, it helps to understand the operation of its different parts.

Coulter Blades

Normally of the fluted variety, coulter blades do the heavy work of cutting through crop residue and into the earth's crust. The size of the coulter has a direct impact on the ease with which it does this. In heavy conditions, the larger coulters perform the best.

When working with soil that's rocky or uneven, a flexible mounting of these blades is imperative to permit easy movement over the stones. Under such conditions, a parallel linkage system will also assist in enabling more efficient operation.

Row Cleaners

The job done by the row cleaners will vary according to their placement on the equipment. When positioned in front of the coulter blades, they perform a preliminary clearance of crop residue, enabling the blades to penetrate the soil with greater ease. When alternatively mounted behind the coulters, they clean the rows by removing leftover detritus.

Tillage Shanks and Sweeps

While functioning mainly to loosen the soil within the strip, most tillage shanks today also come equipped with injection tubes that permit the simultaneous application of soil enhancements to the tilled row. The best models will handle liquid, dry or gaseous forms of these materials. The shanks combine with cultivator sweeps to loosen the soil and prepare for planting. 

Berm-Building Discs

Located 6 to 8 inches behind and to each side of the tillage shank, berm-building discs perform the task of sculpting the soil in the plowed strip. Depending on their angle of adjustment, they can either introduce a depression to encourage moisture buildup or build a mound to facilitate water runoff.

Conditioning Baskets or Packing Wheels

From their position behind the shanks, conditioning baskets or packing wheels break up any remaining soil clods and put a smooth finish on the surface. Although particularly important in the spring, their use is optional in the fall, since the winter weather that's sure to follow will do the job just as well.

Combination Equipment

Strip-tillage equipment that consists of a combination seed planter, fertilizer spreader and chemical sprayer will allow a single-pass performance of all operations in conjunction with the tilling and seedbed preparation.

GPS-Guided Tractors

For anyone engaging in strip tillage methods, the success of ensuing seeding and spraying operations relies entirely upon an accurate and even spacing of the strips. Every subsequent pass must be able to duplicate the original exactly. A mismatch of even a few inches could cause misalignment and incorrect seeding and planting.

This vital concern calls for precise guidance of the tillage equipment. Any discrepancy between seed placement and prior fertilizer application can diminish yields by as much as 30 percent. While one method of ensuring accuracy entails the use of row markers, a more exact practice employs GPS positioning to guarantee that successive passes will hit the mark. It’s also importance to have properly aligned disc blades and disc openers that can plant with precise accuracy to ensure the best results.

A Method Whose Time Has Come?

Although strip tillage remains a relative newcomer to the soil management scene, many will tell you that nothing matches its ability to prepare the perfect seedbed while cutting labor and equipment requirements nearly in half. In the end, however, its ability to conserve soil while increasing production could be the biggest selling point of all.

Friday, March 7, 2014

How the Patterns of Different Coulter Blades Affect Performance

When selecting coulter blades for plows and other agricultural equipment, farm owners and agribusiness professionals are faced with a plethora of choices – different sizes, patterns and materials. At Wearparts LLC, we offer coulter blades that are made with boron steel, offering superior soil penetration and a longer wear life, and we offer a variety of disc diameters to fit modern agricultural equipment. But choosing the right pattern for your needs can be a challenge. Below are the most common coulter blade types, with application suggestions.

Fluted Coulters This type of coulter is able to penetrate into an exceptionally deep part of the soil, yet the device only minimally disturbs the surrounding soil because of its relatively thin design.

Fluted coulter blades feature countless small grooves on the surface of the tool and a smooth edge. Fluted coulters are available in diameters of 16 to 22 inches and  thicknesses of 4 to 5 mm.

Bubble CoultersThe uniform protrusions of bubble coulters allow the blades to create a row with a width of slightly more than one inch when they are traveling at a speed of six miles per hour. The flat edge lets the tool cut through hard soil and residue swiftly. Boron steel bubble coulters from Wearparts LLC are available in diameters of 16 or 17 inches

Smooth Coulters This style of coulter was first used in the 19th century and is one of the earlier advancements in agriculture technology. Smooth coulters have the ability to cut debris from plants and to create an eight-inch cavity in the dirt. Additionally, farmers have reported that the usage of smooth blades causes the soil to become especially soft. Smooth coulters from Wearparts LLC are available in diameters of 12 to 36 inches, and thicknesses of 3 to 10 mm.

Wavy CoultersAt slow speeds, wavy coulters till the soil more aggressively than any other devices on the market. The curves of the equipment allow the tool to spread the soil more evenly than other coulter types.

These blades are particularly effective when three of them are used simultaneously. According to highly experienced farmers, two of the blades can create a wide planting strip, while one of the blades will cut deeply into the dirt and residue. We offer wavy coulters that have diameters of 14 to 24 inches.

Notched Coulters Notched coulters feature large protrusions at the end of the disc and are designed to penetrate soil that is exceptionally thick, offering the ability to cut through residue even when traveling at high speeds. Wearparts LLC provides notched blades with diameters of 15 to 25 inches and thicknesses of 3 to 8 mm.

Getting Your CoultersChoosing the right disc coulters can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. At Wearparts LLC, we have years of experience in helping agricultural businesses find the right tillage tools and parts they need to get the job done. Call us at 1-888-4-BLADES today and we’ll help you find the right coulter blades, disc blades and other components you need for tillage success.