In an unusual twist, tillage equipment that has been used for several years on area farms was used for the most part during a tillage demonstration field day sponsored by the Manitowoc County Forage Council.
Such events usually feature equipment dealers bringing, describing, and demonstrating the latest equipment from the brand name manufacturers whom they represent. Instead, six Manitowoc County farmers brought one or more of their tillage units for the field day held on land operated by Dale and Tyler Wagner of Twin Elm Farm.
The event drew more than 60 attendees to a winter wheat field where a crop yielding an average of 83 bushels per acre at 15 percent moisture was harvested two days earlier. The Wagners plan to seed the field with an oats and pea mix as a late season crop.
As a leadoff to the lineup of tillage equipment, Chad Staudinger of Blue Royal Farms at rural Reedsville brought a multi-bottom John Deere 2810 moldboard plow, which he believed had not been used for about 15 years but was still in good working condition.
Staudinger said the purpose was to show the tillage method that had prevailed in the past and to establish a contrast with the several techniques that are commonly practiced today. He noted that moldboard plowing was ideal for burying plant debris and for churning all of the soil to the depth of the plow shears.
August is a good time for moldboard plowing the late autumn and early spring are not, Jeff Pionek of Diamond Valley Farms at rural Manitowoc commented. He said spring plowing is not a good practice because of the dire effect it has on the oxygen needed for good early season plant growth.
With the emergence of dairy manure storage units and concentrated periods of manure application rather than daily hauling, chisel plowing became a favorite chosen method of incorporating that manure into the soil in order to prevent runoff.
Dick Halverson of Divided Acres along Highway 151 between Valders and Manitowoc noted he has relied on chisel plowing for about 30 years to incorporate manure applied to most of the farm's acres every year. He demonstrated his 9-foot Brillion Soil Builder chisel plow at the field day.
Incorporating manure and tilling grain or corn stubble are ideal uses of the Pottinger 5001 Terradisc, according to Gene Radder of D & D Equipment at Chilton. He cited the versatility of the unit for both autumn and spring tillage but emphasized that it needs to be properly set for the desired spacing and tillage depth in order to obtain a level soil surface.
Breaking up compacted soil, crushing blocks of soil on the field surface, and preparing a satisfactory seedbed with single autumn and spring tillage passes were goals cited by Jim Fitzgerald of Soaring Eagle Dairy at rural Newton. He demonstrated a 12-foot Krause Dominator deep chisel plow and 30-foot Great Plains Turbo Max vertical tillage unit to the field day.
Fitzgerald said the Krause Dominator deep chisel plow has been used for six years to incorporate manure and to break up soil compaction. He recommends using a penetrometer to identify areas of soil compaction and to then set the depth of the chisel plow accordingly.
A back-end attachment to the Krause Dominator helps to break up soil chunks and to level the surface so a single pass in the spring will suffice for seedbed preparation, Fitzgerald indicated. He said the unit is used mainly in the more distant fields where manure is applied with trucks.
Closer to the farmstead, liquid manure is typically applied with drag lines at rates of 11,000 to 16,000 gallons per acre, depending on the nutrient management plan stipulations, Fitzgerald pointed out. He said one challenge yet to be remedied is the proper leveling of the soil surface in the wake of those applications.
The Great Plains Turbo Max 3000 and 1500 units are designed for vertical tillage, Fitzgerald observed. A good feature on them is the option to adjust the disk angle by up to 6 degrees, he noted. The 30-foot Turbo Max which Fitzgerald demonstrated also has an attached harrow drag for leveling the soil.
With his 11-foot Great Plains Turbo 109 chisel plow, Dale Wagner is pleased about its suitability for incorporating manure within 24 hours after application in the spring, the ability to set the depth from shallow to 15 inches deep, and the back-end rollers with spikes for leveling the soil on a single tillage pass before seeding in the spring.
Pionek, who is aiming to minimize tillage in order to avoid horizontal sheer and the potential for soil erosion, brought a Sunflower 4212 vertical tillage disk and a 4-bottom 18-inch 2700 moldboard plow. He said driving fast (about 10 miles per hour) is a requirement with the Sunflower unit.
Following soil contours, reducing the lifting of soil, and planting in the trenches are among Pionek's tillage goals. He also wants to expand the growing of cover crops as a soil management tool.
A late addition to the field day lineup was a John Deere 2700 heavy shank ripper provided by Riesterer & Schnell Inc. It is one of the longest tillage units on the market, requires a tractor with a minimum of 250 horsepower, offers choices on shank numbers and spacing, and can be adjusted for plant residue coverage for 15-70 percent of the soil surface.