Sunflower Tillage Experts Offer Preseason Advice for Proper Tillage
No matter what your tillage goal is — residue management, seedbed preparation or preparing for the next crop in a rotation — a properly adjusted and properly used tillage implement will result in fewer trips to the field, better management of the quality and performance of the next crop, and hopefully lower potential erosion.
Tillage experts from Sunflower®, the industry’s full-line provider of tillage and seeding implements, offer some advice for preparing and setting disc harrows before going to the field this fall. These tips apply regardless of the brand of disc harrow you’re working with.
“The goal should be to achieve a consistent, level soil finish across the entire width of the machine, leaving no ridges or furrows,” says Larry Kuster, senior product specialist with Sunflower, a brand of AGCO. “How a machine is set and how it is used really impact reaching this goal, and also determine how effective the machine will be at cutting crop residue, sizing it consistently, and then mixing it into soil to encourage breakdown over the winter.” Kuster offers these tips plus easy-to-follow photos and detailed instructions from Sunflower demonstrating how to set a tillage machine.
Properly pair the tractor and tillage tool. Size does matter, so don’t overpower the tool. A general rule is 8 to 10 HP per foot to pull a tandem disc harrow at 5 to 6 mph. While the design of some tillage tools allows faster ground speeds, going too fast is an easy way to create ridges and furrows. It also can cause tillage tools to bounce, producing an inconsistent tillage depth.
Adjusting the tongue to match drawbar height is important to keep the tillage tool level and moving smoothly through the field, optimizing fuel use and minimizing wear on parts such as the drawbar, level lift assembly and other components that can receive unneeded down pressure if the tool is operated either nose down or tail down. A straight line of draft to the tool is the goal.
Purge air from the hydraulic lines to ensure the wings stay level with the machine’s center section. With the implement’s hydraulics connected to the tractor, simply raise and lower the implement several times to allow the system to cycle fully. Because air is more easily compressed than oil, air in the hydraulic lines can allow the wings to sag.
“If the cylinder sags one-third inch, for example, that could allow the wing to drop approximately 1 inch,” explains Kuster. “That is significant when the tillage depth you’re working toward is only 5 or 6 inches.”
Level the tool from side to side and from front to back to ensure it will work the soil at a consistent, even depth, without gouging or ridging. Keeping the tool level also helps optimize fuel efficiency, reduces wear on the implement, and allows the machine to handle crop residue with less bunching or plugging. Wings and center frames should operate at the same height from side to side. To check these, lower the tool to the ground, stopping the descent when the disc blades are close to the soil but not touching it. Use a tape to measure the distance from the bottom of the frame to the center of the pivot pin on the walking tandem or the top of the wheel spindle if a single or dual wheel is present. The measurements should be the same. Always check the center-section wheels left and right to ensure the integrity of the center lift assembly. Using this same method, set the wings at identical depths by measuring from the bottom of the frame to the top of the wheel spindle or pivot pin of the walking tandem (as shown). If the wheels on the wings are smaller than the main transport wheels, adjust your measurements accordingly.
“The great thing about this method is the operator can use it at the shop or in the field,” says Kuster. “You don’t need a level slab of cement.”
Adjust the fore/aft level so the front and rear blades are of equal distance from the ground. This is a preliminary adjustment. Once in the field, confirm the fore/aft level after traveling several hundred feet with the tool lowered in the working position. Check the soil at the center rear of the tool where the soil is returned by the rear gangs. A tool that is level front to rear will produce a complete and level fill of the valley cut by the front gangs. If soil forms a valley, the rear of the tool needs to be lowered. If a ridge is present, the rear of the tool is too deep, and the tool should be adjusted to lower the front of the machine.
Set the tillage depth to your field conditions and the job at hand. A general rule of thumb for tillage depth of an implement such as a disc harrow is 25 percent of the blade diameter. Thus, a disc harrow with 24-inch blades should be set to till no more than 6 inches deep. Implements such as Sunflower disc harrows have a single-point depth control with a convenient hand crank that adjusts the depth in one-half-inch increments each time the handle is rotated one turn.
“When setting machine depth, be sure the machine carries some weight on the wheels, because the wheels are the base of all the tool adjustments previously made,” explains Kuster. “When the tires don’t have some soil contact, control of the implement is lost.”
Follow these steps to achieve the maximum depth of a disc harrow: Operate the tool with the wheels fully retracted; yes, tires off the ground. Stop after working the soil for a few hundred feet and allowing the disc to achieve maximum depth. Lower the wheels until the tool’s frame begins to lift. At this point, release the valve stopping the ascent of the frame, and stop the tractor but leave the tool in the ground. Adjust the single-point depth-control crank until the striker plate contacts the hydraulic poppet valve. Raise the tool until the audible click of the poppet valve engages, which stops the oil flow. The implement’s maximum depth is now set, and control of the tool is retained.
Gauge wheels are especially important on flexible tillage tools to prevent front-wing corners from gouging. When set correctly, these wheels should move slightly side to side when kicked. A tape measure can be used to ensure the setting for both gauge wheels is consistent. The gauge wheel adjustment is the final step in the field adjustment process.
Operators’ manuals will have full details for specific settings on your machine. For more information about the full line of tillage tools from Sunflower, see your Sunflower equipment dealer or visit www.sunflowermfg.com.
As recently as a decade ago, most farmers didn’t give much thought to the notion that their tractor could have GPS-guided automated steering. Most sure didn’t think they needed it. Now, producers rave that automated steering has taken a lot of stress out of farming’s long hours, while increasing efficiencies.
The experts at AGCO are certain the same kind of appreciation will come as a result of AgCommand™, the company’s new telemetry system. AgCommand can log and transmit numerous bits of information about an operation’s machinery to a web site easily accessible to the farmer or others involved in the operation. AgCommand is only a part of AGCO’s larger Fuse™ initiative that encompasses all aspects of AGCO’s technology offerings. It will enable farmers to optimize their farms through current and future AGCO products and services. To learn more about Fuse, click here.
The data becomes a big tool for the farmer and can translate into improved equipment and overall operational efficiencies. Here are just a few examples:
A farm manager in the office (or the machine operator) might receive a message via the AgCommand web site that one of their tractors is experiencing wheel slippage. If there is slippage, maybe conditions in the field aren’t right yet for cultivation. The producer may have to check for compaction in areas where slippage occurs.
Monitors on the combine might tell the operator or manager—in real time—that they are experiencing grain loss. The combine setup can be adjusted before any more grain is lost.
A farm’s machinery dealer can be tied into the AgCommand monitoring system. They can see when service intervals are going to hit—when more filters and fluids are going to be needed and have them on hand. If the farmer does his own servicing, the dealer can automatically ship supplies directly to the farmer.
The beads of perspiration forming on Monte Innes’ forehead are swelling but not yet heavy enough to succumb to gravity. It is early August, a sunny 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and he’s leaning against a large square bale amid a 480-acre strip of land along the Ohio Creek in south-central Colorado.
“This is a real harsh area to work in,” says Monte, 43, who cuts and bales hay on nearly 6,000 acres tucked piecemeal into high, arid mountain valleys up to an hour-and-a-half apart. “The cold can settle into this valley here in the winter and it’ll be 35 below for days.
“Every valley has its own microclimate,” he continues, “and in the spring and summer, rainfall can vary tremendously from one hay field to the next all within a few miles of each other. You just kind of roll with the punches.”
On this particular day, however, the Ohio Creek Valley resembles paradise. Mountains rise up around us on three sides. Most grand are the Anthracites directly to the north.
Acres worth of grass have already been cut and laid down by Monte. In an adjacent field, his wife Julie is running the baler, dropping large rectangular blocks in her wake. Across the valley lush grasses—timothy, red top, brome and clover—fed by recent, unusually heavy rains, beg to be harvested.
Monte and Julie picked up an additional 900 acres worth of hay to farm this year, in large part because of their new Hesston® by Massey Ferguson WR9770 windrower. Their new customer had seen the clean, close cut the Inneses had achieved on a nearby property and realized his existing custom balers were leaving money in the fields.
“This is the third RazorBar disc header we’ve had, and we wouldn’t own anything else,” Monte says. “We get all the hay. It is a clean cut an inch from the ground.”
He also appreciates the speed with which the machine can travel. “It is awesome traveling down the road at 20 mph from one field to another,” he continues, noting how important that speed is when you’re working numerous scattered fields.
The windrower is quick in the field, too. “Today I cut 180 acres in six-and-a-half hours,” he says, “and I couldn’t have done that with any other machine.”
Their dealer, Luke Sharpe, of Sharpe Equipment and Irrigation in Salida, says that the care and ability of the operators also play a role in how well the couple do their jobs. “Monte and Julie work their butts off, and their hay quality is phenomenal,” he says.
Their new Hesston by Massey Ferguson 2170 XD baler, which is being pulled by an MF6495 tractor, is making and saving them money, too. “Our new baler is a home run for us,” Monte says.
The 2170 XD produces bales that are denser, heavier. Because of that, they can now get 26 to 27 tons of hay on a semi trailer truck for shipment, rather than 22 tons.
“That saves us about 50 loads per season,” says Monte, “which saves us about $25,000 in shipping costs.”
As for the tractor, “it is phenomenal on fuel running the baler,” Monte says. “I kept calling the dealership saying, ‘I think the fuel gauge is wrong.’
“It wasn’t broke; it was just getting that much better fuel economy.”
A pair of Massey Ferguson tractors is helping specialist Anglesey sea-farming business, Menai Oysters and Mussels, process each year more than 70,000 oysters and five million mussels, all grown and cultivated naturally in the strong, nutrition-rich tidal currents of the Menai Strait.
The majority of the company’s shellfish production is sent to wholesale markets for purchase by hotels, restaurants and specialist fish shops and retailers with a growing number of sales being made also via the internet, mail-order and direct to customers who visit Menai Oysters and Mussels’ shop on a Sunday or Wednesday.
Purchased in late 2012 from nearby MF dealer, Emyr Evans, the two Massey Ferguson tractors – a 38hp MF 1540A and a 102hp MF 5440 – are being employed primarily within the initial washing processes used to remove silt, sand and other seabed detritus from the shells of the harvested oysters and mussels.
Initial cleaning of the oysters is carried out in trays using a hand-held pressure washer fed with fresh water by a high-capacity pump mounted on and driven by the power take-off shaft of the MF 1540A tractor. When all of the oysters have been washed, the tractor is driven a short distance to the mussel processing line where its external hydraulic system is connected to pumps powering the equipment’s water delivery and conveyor systems, simultaneously washing and grading the mussels as they move along the line.
Having been cleaned off externally, the shellfish is either immersed in tanks or placed on racks for further cleaning by purification using continuously recirculating seawater that has been sterilised by UV light. Minimum purification time is 42 hours to ensure that the filter feeding mechanism of the bivalve molluscs has adequate time to filter-out grit, sand and other internal impurities.
All of the seawater used by Menai Oysters and Mussels within its various washing and purifying processes is transported from the sea shore to the farm in a 6,000 litre vacuum tanker hauled by the MF 5440 tractor, the water being held in large storage tanks until needed. The two and a half miles each-way journey to and from the sea shore is made two or three times a week, depending on the season and demand for the firm’s oysters and mussels, all of which are sold to customers within the United Kingdom.
“We use a lot of sea water for purifying the shellfish so the tractor has to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” explained marine biologist Shaun Krijnen, who founded Menai Oysters and Mussels in 1994 and maintains a full hands-on role in the business today. “When it’s not involved in shellfish production, the MF 5440 tractor is used for hedge-cutting, pasture mowing and local contract work, helping out nearby arable and livestock farmers.”
Bought primarily to power the oyster and mussel washing equipment, the smaller MF 1540 compact tractor spends up to 40 hours a week stationary with its engine running and power take-off shaft turning at a constant 540rpm.
“The MF 1540 replaced a larger agricultural-type tractor, consequently cutting our diesel usage by half,” commented Shaun. “The new tractor’s power output and auxiliary oil flow are far better matched to our existing equipment so everything runs more smoothly and economically. Having a foldable rollbar instead of a cab means also that we can lock the tractor away securely overnight.”
The larger MF 5440 tractor arrived on the farm two months later, further modernising the firm’s machinery fleet while splitting the existing workload over two new power units.
“As the business has grown, we have looked increasingly to invest in modern, reliable, cost-effective equipment,” explained Shaun. “Massey Ferguson was the obvious choice for us. Not only is our local dealer just 15 minutes away but we are benefiting from the company’s Manager 5-year extended warranty and servicing package that brings peace of mind to a business that relies very heavily on its machinery throughout the year.”
Farm Progress Show Attendees Caught a Break From the Heat While Learning About AGCO’s Technology Offerings
By Jason O’Flanagan
The 2013 Farm Progress Show (FPS) held in Decatur, IL, from August 27-29 was a great platform for farmers in North America to be exposed to the new FuseTM Technologies strategy from AGCO. FPS is the largest open air farm show in the Americas, with a unique focus directly on the farmer.
During the show AGCO showcased its technology offerings under the shade of the Fuse Pavilion at the center of the AGCO lot. Pathways leading in and out of the pavilion emphasized a key piece of the Fuse strategy – connectivity among different machinery – and guided users to various machines where they could talk with AGCO experts about Fuse technology products.
On the stage within the Fuse Pavilion, presentations at lunchtime on Tuesday and Wednesday included Bob Crain, Sr. VP of AGCO NA, Dr. Jay Lehr, Mike Pearson and me, Jason O’Flanagan. The panel discussed technology in general as well as how the Fuse Technologies strategy would benefit the farmer.
Key to the Fuse Technologies message was the “smart bar.” It featured some of the technology products that are already part of the Fuse portfolio such as AgCommandTM and Auto-Guide® 3000, which were available for demos. The pavilion and smart bar were a hit in the hot weather, providing a welcome respite from the sun to have questions answered and to see the technology in action.
“High-tech solutions for professional farmers feeding the world.”
To see more photos from the event, visit our Facebook page.
To learn more about Fuse Technologies, click here.
Jason O’Flanagan is a Senior Marketing Specialist for the AGCO ATS team for the North America region.