With all the choices in tillage equipment available to producers today, it might be easy to overlook tried-and-true tools such as disc harrows and field cultivators. So, we asked Larry Kuster, AGCO® product marketing specialist for Sunflower® seeding and tillage, to describe the agronomic benefits these tools offer for field preparation and residue management, and how they can help maximize yield potential.
PA: What’s the main objective for tillage and seedbed preparation?
Kuster: The bottom line is achieving uniform soil density and moisture so that no matter where that seed gets placed, it has 360-degree seed-to-soil contact in the best environment possible for germination and growth. In addition, we want a level seedbed without tracks or furrows that could disrupt planter accuracy.
PA: How can a disc harrow help achieve that?
Kuster: A disc harrow can be one of your most versatile tillage pieces in your arsenal. It can be used as primary tillage or secondary tillage. It can be used in fall applications as well as spring applications. It allows you to go out there and move soil efficiently, especially in instances where you need some post-harvest rescue, maybe after a wet harvest time.
What we do with the disc needs to be uniform and even, because we want uniformity in the soil profile and of the seedbed itself, so the planter can run smoothly. We want clods gone. We want air pockets gone. If it’s a residue management pass that we’re doing in the fall of the year, we want that material sized uniformly. So, we want to get as many cuts into that length of that material as possible to allow the biological elements to get in, break that material down and release the nutrients it contains.
When operating the disc harrow, it’s imperative that the machine is properly leveled from front to rear. You should not see heaped piles of soil or valleys or furrows if everything is set correctly.
PA: How are field cultivators used today?
Kuster: The field cultivator is a tried-and-true tool that has been around for a long time and is still a very popular seedbed preparation tool, used primarily in the spring of the year.
Today, farmers are looking at field cultivators as a fast, very efficient tool to build a uniform, good-quality seedbed by pulling moisture up to a uniform planting depth. And now with field cultivators as wide as 63 feet—as we have in our product group—farmers can cover a lot of ground in less time. The agronomic advantage is that it’s fast, helping farmers hit the optimum planting window. Field cultivators very easily can attain and do an excellent job at 8 miles an hour. They’re simple; they’re easy to maintain; and they do an excellent job.
In summary, both disc harrows and field cultivators play important roles in creating the best soil conditions and level seedbed surface for planting a successful crop.