With 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans under a no-till and conventional-tillage program, Larry Flom, by many measures, is a typical Minnesota farmer. However, the fact that he farms all of it by himself, even during the busy planting and harvest seasons, puts Flom in an “above average” category that seems to be growing.
Flom wasn’t always alone in his endeavors, though. Up until about 13 years ago, he shared the family farm with his brother Steven. Steven was killed in a car accident in 2000, and shortly after that tragic event Larry trimmed the farm size by 500 acres and continued the work by himself.
Farms the size of Flom’s are disappearing at a rapid pace from the North American landscape. The number of midsize farms in the U.S. shrank by as much as 25% in some states from 1997 to 2007. The decrease in Canada was even larger, with mid-sized farms (those between 400 and 2,240 acres) dwindling by a whopping 38%.
The midsize farm frequently has the need but not the income to keep someone on the payroll.
“There have been times I could have used an extra person, and John Isaacson has helped on occasion,” says Flom about his friend and Massey Ferguson and AGCO dealer. “But most of the time, it’s just easier to do it myself than to find and train someone.”
“It’s not unusual for one person to farm 1,500 acres or for a father/son team to farm a few thousand acres,” says Kent Olson, professor of applied economics and Extension economist–farm management at Minnesota State University. “If they’re highly mechanized and have adopted labor-saving technology, such as Roundup Ready crops, it is possible in this day and age to handle that kind of acreage.”
For instance, Flom uses Roundup Ready corn and soybeans. Both are planted in 30-inch rows following preplant incorporation of a residual herbicide. Hence, the most that’s ever needed is a post application of Roundup.
Flom also credits the technology and capacity available in today’s farm equipment. His new Class 7 combine not only has the capacity to handle a 35-foot draper header, but it has a grain bin capacity of 330 bushels and an unloading time of only 83 seconds, so he can spend more time harvesting.
Other time-saving machines include a 16-row Model 8516 White planter, 54-foot Sunflower® Model 5055 field cultivator, and MF8670 tractor, which offers a 32-mph transport speed. “The farm stretches out over a 20-mile area,” Flom notes. “So the road speed certainly helps me get more done.”
By alleviating pressure on the bottom line, the fuel efficiency of today’s equipment is a huge help to farmers like Flom. As he says about his MF8670, “I just love the fuel economy. Most of the AGCO brand tractors have been pretty good, but between the CVT [transmission] and the e3 SCR system, this one’s even better, especially for the size. It just idles along when I’m planting, so I’ve been able to go for days without having to worry about fueling it up.”
Added together, the number and scope of these advancements from Massey Ferguson and other AGCO brands help Flom maintain the farm, all the while saving time and money. “Like a lot of farmers, I probably have more equipment than I actually need,” he confesses. “But when it’s just me doing everything, I want to be ready to go when I need to go.”
How do you improve efficiency on your farm?
While the skies above may look ominous in this picture, the tractors and equipment were in for a day of hard work ahead. Several weeks ago in American Falls, Idaho, AGCO dealer Agri-Service, LLC had its first of a series of events called Fall Tillage days. This is a chance for their customers and prospects get behind the wheel of our tractors and demonstrate them along with our tillage equipment. “In attendance at this particular event were approximately 18 guests representing about 8 local farm operations,” said Adam Hubbard, Marketing Manager at Agri-Service.
Available to demo were a Challenger MT685 pulling a Sunflower 4511 Disc Chisel, a Challenger MT765 pulling a Sunflower 1436 Disc Harrow, and a Challenger MT865 pulling a Sunflower 4630 Disc Ripper. Everyone in attendance was able to demonstrate each of these machines and Agri-Service salesmen as well as AGCO Product Specialists were on-hand to answer questions and point out key features of the equipment and highlight their benefits. All were able to easily demonstrate the ability to till under the crop residue while leaving an impressive finish.
As these machines were parked on a well-traveled road prior to the start of the day, there were some walk-ups inquiring about the impressive display including the static Gleaner Super Series S88 which was prominently showcased as well.
“We had positive feedback from all of the customers that attended. All were able to operate the equipment and were impressed by the tractors as well as the performance of each tillage piece. Some of them had used Sunflower [before] and some hadn’t,” stated Hubbard. When asked if anything in particular stood out to the guests, Hubbard replied, “the SF 4630, the big disc ripper and it performed very well in addition to the incredible ability and performance of the MT865 tractor.”
Agri-Service has three more upcoming Fall Tillage events in October. To learn more, click here.
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.
AGCO’s New Zealand Dealers gathered recently in Addington, Christchurch, for comprehensive training in Advanced Technology Solutions (ATS) including System 110 Guidance, System 150 and System 350 Auto steering and AGCO’s telemetry system, Agcommand.
AGCO’s extensive dealer network gives farmers access to the resources and benefits of these new and emerging agricultural products. Dealer training empowers dealers with the knowledge and expertise needed to provide customers with high end precision farming solutions and the know how to suit progressive farmers. AGCO’s precision farming technologies enable farmers and contractors to optimise their operations, reduce input costs and achieve greater efficiency and profitability.
In New Zealand, the highly professional dealer group attending the training included dealer principals, sales staff and technical support staff. All were given the opportunity to evaluate the systems on display in real time with a mix of Valtra, Fendt and Massey Ferguson tractors equipped with AGCO’s technology products.
Taking an active role in enhancing dealers’ knowledge base, AGCO Australia’s ATS Product Manager, Jeremy Duniam, was pleased with the training that included classroom style learning as well as practical demonstrations of the products.
“The dealer training was extremely productive and was received very well by all participating. It is always rewarding to see dealer staff remain behind after the day sessions have finished to spend more time getting familiar with the systems. The dealer network in New Zealand is very professional in their approach. Their knowledge of ATS solutions will equip New Zealand farmers with innovative technology solutions, which is the future of farming.” Jeremy said.
This recent dealer training reflects AGCO’s commitment to and global emphasis on precision ag technology, recently launched as Fuse™ Technologies. To learn more about AGCO’s on and off board technologies and the Fuse technology strategy, visit http://www.agcocorp.com/products/precision_farming.aspx.
It’s fast approaching harvest time in and around the town of Horsham in Victoria’s west, which provided an idyllic backdrop for a recent photo shoot for Massey Ferguson.
The first star of the show was a new 320hp MF 8680 tractor pulling the new 40’ MF9800 Series single disc air drill. With the camera crew in place, shooting both video and still photography from various vantage points, a great selection of shots were taken showing the awesome power of the MF8680 pulling the new air-seeder through its paces on a fallowed paddock.
Also making an appearance on a beautiful sunny day in the heart of the Wimmera was the new MF9760 self-propelled swather which was fitted with a mower conditioner front and captured making light work of a healthy crop of oats & hay in a nearby paddock.
Shots taken from the day’s shoot will be used in future promotional campaigns. Have you been in the Wimmera lately?