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Spring-loaded coulters

08/30/2011 @ 2:08pm

New spring-loaded, independent, rippled coulter machines from Canada are making a big impression on row crop and small grain growers. The machines are hitting the fields like jackhammers across the U.S.

Salford Farm Machinery Ltd., Salford, Ontario, manufactures the 570 RTS coulter cultivator.

Bob Metz, American Soybean Association past president, strongly supports the machine for corn and soybean growers. Metz farms close to the Red River at West Browns Valley, South Dakota. He was the first grower in the region to start using the new tool.

The machine runs on 7-inch spacing with one to five frame sections, up to 50 feet wide. The 20-inch coulters have eight to 13 ripples. Each coulter mounts directly below a large coiled spring with 8 inches of travel. Harrow attachments are optional.

Spring challenges for Metz's farm include cold ground, heavy crop debris, and lots of rocks in the tillage horizon from freezing and thawing action.

Helping improve yields

The machine has helped Metz greatly. The vertical vibration from the rolling coulters drives cracks into the ground. A unit cutting 2 inches deep opens cracks at least 6 inches deep.

Dick Hansen sells the machine in Horace, North Dakota. “That coil-tine shank is vibrating all the time as it goes along,” he says. “It shatters soil to the side and below the coulter. I've found cracks directly below the coulter, down in the 12- to 15-inch range, actually going through hardpan.”

The RTS leaves most stubble and stalks standing, buries very little material, slices heavy trash and stringy vines, and opens the ground well below cutting depth. Drainage is quickly improved.

No-till growers have reported wet areas drying almost overnight and spring heat warming what was previously cold soil.

Metz doubled field speed to at least 9 mph and as much as 12 mph, right after replacing a 45-foot field cultivator with a 36-foot 570 RTS. Five seasons later, he says the moving parts on his machine need more maintenance than the old cultivator, but they require less maintenance than other coulter units.

“Any vertical tillage coulter machine needs some steam to work properly. When you hit a rock at 12 mph, you really do damage if it's a solid gang,” Metz says. “The Salford is a far superior machine for handling rocks.”

One of the independent, spring-loaded coulters will glance off a big rock, or maybe bounce, but the other coulters stay in the ground and on course.

That first season, Metz compared crop response. He cultivated half a field in his normal fashion and half with the RTS.

“We ended up with a 10% better stand of corn-on-corn behind the Salford than we did behind the field cultivator. That was in several fields, several different conditions,” he says.

“When you produce 170- to 180-bushel corn, you get a lot of trash. By running that Salford, we have a much better seedbed, and I believe we have better seed-to-soil contact.”

As a minimum-till tool, Metz found the RTS blackened soil “just enough” to warm it more quickly and lead to earlier, more even germination.

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