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Field day tests different turbo tillers

Oct. 24, 2013 | 0 comments



A group of curious and enthusiastic farmers gathered near Waunakee Tuesday (Oct. 22) to see a side-by-side comparison of vertical tillage implements.

The implements are designed to help farmers incorporate some of the crop residue into the top few inches of top soil so breakdown can begin to occur, yet leave some there to help prevent erosion over the winter.

The field day was sponsored by Yahara Pride Farms, an organization that is helping farmers in the large Wisconsin Yahara River watershed in south-central Wisconsin find ways to reduce erosion and improve conservation.

The field day was aimed at giving farmers the chance to see the performance of various tillage tools that they may not otherwise learn about. They saw how the implements worked side-by-side in a field where corn had been combined.

Most of the implements demonstrated at the field day have only been in existence for the last six or seven years as the concept of vertical tillage has developed.

The implements work only the top few inches of soil, so they don’t create a "plow pan" or a compaction layer as a conventional disk might do.

Experts who spoke to farmers said these tools are not designed to bury all the residue, just some of it, so it can begin to decompose in the soil.

These vertical tillage implements fit in well with the concept of conservation tillage, said Darrin Harn, a product support specialist with McFarlane Manufacturing in Sauk City.

McFarlane’s vertical tillage implement, which they started manufacturing in 2007, has straight disks in front that cut through the soil and residue, followed by gangs of reels, harrows and rolling baskets designed to break up clods of soil.

"It can be used in the fall to incorporate some of the crop residue so the soil microbes can begin to do their thing. Then it can be used again in the spring to create a seed bed," he said.

That pass in the spring blackens the soil by mixing it with the residue and opens it up for planting, he added, allowing no-till practitioners to get a jump on planting.

The implement is available in sizes from 12 feet to 45 feet in width and is mostly being used by Corn Belt farmers in the Midwest, he said.

Another McFarlane tillage implement, the Quadra Till, is a machine for management of heavy residue and tough stalks, he said. "It shatters soil horizons while maintaining the vertical tillage concept."

This tool, which includes discs, shanks and harrows, is designed for fields that have a lot of corn stalk residue, which then is blended into the top eight to 10 inches of soil.

Ryan Simmons, with Ziegler Ag in DeForest, brought a 6630 Sunflower implement that is designed to be used in the fall right after corn harvest.

Many farmers in the Midwest have replaced their field cultivators with this type of implement because they can move through the field at twice the speed. allowing them to get more work done quickly.

This implement is made in Beloit, KS and has been in production since 2009, he said.

Kuhn Krause brought its Excelerator model to the field day. It has fluted Ingersol disks and hydraulic valves to keep the down-pressure the same on all blades, which all have serrated edges.

Behind that it has star wheels that are intended to tuck residue into the soil and keep it anchored. That’s followed by rolling baskets. The implement is available in 14-foot to 40-foot widths.

Gene Benson demonstrated a Hiniker strip tillage tool on a field where corn had been chopped off for silage.


Pro-active approach

Don Heilman, with Yahara Pride Farms, said the field day was intended to bring new technology to area farmers so they can see how these implements work and how such field practices might fit into their conservation efforts.

"Generally guys don’t get to try these things and see how they work. We wanted to arrange this so they could get a hands-on feel of these implements."

Yahara Pride Farms is guided by a board of 11 and has 50 members right now and is growing every day, said Heilman.

"We want farmers to stay in touch; stay up with new technology."

The organization has a certification program and farmers can work with Dennis Frame and Joe Connors, who have been hired to assess farms on a voluntary basis and help farmers find ways to improve their conservation methods.

"It’s not a hard regulatory thing, but a consulting approach," he said. That makes Yahara Pride Farms activities a pro-active alternative to waiting for regulations to come down the pike.

Heilman said that they have plans in place to offer a certification for farmers at different levels and sponsors are coming on board, offering discounts to farmers for being part of the program.

"We all know there’s a movement to rein in agriculture. We want farmers to be pro-active. They want to be pro-active."

While everybody wants to do what’s best for the environment, they may not have access to the right equipment and that’s where a field day like this one comes in, he added.


Manure applicator

The organization is also working to improve cover crop usage in the watershed and is doing research with UW-Extension on different cover crop projects so they can bring results back to members.

Waunakee dairy farmer Jeff Endres is chairman of the Yahara Pride Farms board. He said besides giving farmers a chance to see this equipment, a field day like this provides equipment dealers with an opportunity to see a lot of interested farmers.

Endres said dealers and sponsors are chipping in to make it possible for farmers to try various conservation-minded implements on their own farms. "It’s not very often you get those opportunities."

Another implement that is available to Yahara Pride Farms members is a manure applicator that incorporates the manure and is equipped with satellite guidance.

This allows data to be generated and maps to be created so farmers will know exactly how much manure was applied and where it went.

"This is the first in the region for that kind of implement," he said.

Dennis Frame, the now-retired Discovery Farms co-director, said that in areas with a lot of livestock, manure incorporation means tillage and the vertical tillage manure applicator could take the place of fall tillage.

"It’s a big challenge to get incorporation without getting too much tillage," he added.

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