FARGO, N.D. — As prairie farmers gradually move toward more tillage, they’re finding that the old iron they dragged out of the bush is not up to the performance standards of new machines.
But in looking at new tillage implements, growers are startled by the cost, especially on implements that only perform one task. Price tags on these “one-trick pony” cultivators cause farmers to pull up and say ‘whoa boy.’
To address this dilemma, manufacturers are going in search of fresh new designs for multi-tasking cultivators. That’s what Summers Manufacturing had in mind when developing the multi-tasking Renegade variable rate tillage machine, according to Summers representative Bruce Johnson.
“Farmers have been telling us they want more flexibility in their tillage operations. We commonly hear guys say they need a vertical tillage tool, but sometimes we need the option to move more dirt,” says Johnson.
“Producers would tell us they had bought a new tillage tool that worked great in one application, vertical till for example, but it was useless in other applications. It gets to be expensive if you buy a new implement for each different tillage operation on your farm.
“Guys don’t want to write a cheque for a one-trick pony. They want an implement they can use both spring and fall. They can use it in a conservation tillage program or in trouble spots that need extra attention. They can use it if they have heavy residue and they need to work it in, or light residue and they want a vertical till machine. That’s definitely the trend we’re seeing.”
Johnson says the increase of herbicide-resistant weeds is forcing many farmers to do more tillage than they would wish. He says this is helping drive the quest for more adjustment in a tillage tool.
Zero-till farmers who have come to the realization they must do some tillage don’t want to disturb any more soil than required to control weeds.
Adjustments on-the-go from the cab include front- and rear-blade angles from zero to 19 degrees, with the front and rear controlled individually. Machine pitch is adjustable fore/aft to transfer weight to where it is wanted. Tillage depth is adjustable from the cab. Gauge wheels out on the wings prevent the wings from diving in when working on loose soil. The wings also have active down pressure to keep them down at the desired depth, while allowing them to flex to follow land contours. Down pressure on the rolling baskets is adjustable on-the-go. The harrows are not adjustable from the cab.
“The Renegade differs from most other high-speed cultivators in the sense that we don’t carry the full weight of the machine on the rear attachment or rear roller. We hear from farmers that carrying a lot of weight on the rears rollers gives them an undesirable packing affect in wet conditions.
“To avoid that, we’ve gone with a deeper frame with enough room for wheels in the centre. This allows you to control the weight of the machine and not put too much weight on the rollers. Right now we’re looking at adding a tow-behind cart for fertilizer and for seeding cover crops. But it’s too crowded in there to try mounting seed openers.”
He adds that there’s another major benefit of a multi-adjustable tillage implement with on-the-go controls. As operators move through different soil and residue conditions in the field, they can immediately change the function of the implement without stopping. They can switch from vertical till to very aggressive tillage in seconds.
“All adjustment goes through an iPad or our Summers iControl. It’s about as complicated as the touch screen radio in your pickup. And you can set it all up with pre-sets for the various conditions you expect to encounter each day. You can do as many pre-sets as you want. You can do 150-bushel corn or 50-bu. wheat. So you can send a novice out into the field and simply tell him which pre-sets to use.”
According to Summers, the new Renegade can perform 10 functions, although some farmers might think there’s an overlap depending on how an individual defines the terms. The same adjustments may be used for more than one field function.
The Renegade is manufactured in five-foot increments from 25-feet, listed at US$110,000 to $170,000 for the 40-foot unit.