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Big idea: Shop-built roller

Sugar beet growers Richard Schmunk and his dad, Gary, switched to a larger planter in 2011. It soon became clear their six-row shaper wasn’t following the planter correctly; it was shifting beds out of the way.

“We started looking around for a shaper that would work for 12 rows, but there were none on the market,” recalls Schmunk. “Well,” he laughs, “Dad and I needed something to do that winter!”

They put in a call to Texas-based Roll-A-Cone for the additional six roller/shapers, and Schmunk began working out the frame design. The challenge, he says, was determining how the wings would fold.

Firms seedbeds


The father-son team has incorporated the new roller/shapers with original parts from their six-row unit. Schmunk says the front roller mechanism does the shaping by leveling the tops of the seedbeds and compressing the sides to keep them nice and solid.

“The back roller, or the individual baskets, add a little more pressure to make it that much more solid,” he says. “They also rough up the top just a little bit, which helps prevent wind damage to the sprouted seeds,” he says. “We get strong winds.”

Schmunk explains that sugar beet seed is very fine, like wheat. “We need a real nice firm seedbed because it only goes in about 1 inch deep. We have to irrigate, so the shaper keeps seedbeds from washing. This gives us better irrigation and better emergence.”

Another performance feature is consistent down pressure, due to sliding pins on the frame that create a level surface.

“When we put the whole unit on the ground, the wings stay down on the edges. That gives us a solid, level surface across all 12 rows,” explains Schmunk. The rear rollers are spring-loaded for down pressure, and this pressure can be modified to meet the existing ground conditions.

The new shaper was first put to work in 2012. “We’ve had great stands,” reports Schmunk. “If we raise pinto beans again, like we have in the past, we’ll use this machine to do it,” he says.

Schmunk says producers wanting to build something similar are coming by to have a look.

A $2,500 winner

Schmunk is the next recipient of a $2,500 Firestone in-store credit offer for having his idea chosen as the Idea of the Month.

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