Tillage no longer a dirty word, or not as dirty

Manufacturers today don’t feel they’re soiling their reputations by introducing a new cultivator

FARGO, N.D. — The days are gone when tillage was a bad word and no-till was the prairie mantra. Farmers touring the recent Big Iron show in Fargo were treated to a heaping helping of fresh new cultivators.

The surge in new tillage equipment was sparked by generally wet conditions, along with the need to cultivate because of herbicide resistant weeds.

Another driving factor is farmer demand for multi-tasking tillage machines that perform numerous soil-working operations, says Joe Symington of K-Line Ag, who was at Big Iron to show the Australian-built K-Line Powerflex Speedtiller.

“One of the reasons Canadian farmers buy an Australian machine is it’s so heavily built. It takes all the abuse from rocks and hard soil without breaking down,” says Symington, adding that it fits the context of our prairie conditions and the vicious circle in which we’ve found ourselves.

“Growers have better varieties to give them higher yields, but to hit those goals they need the best possible seed bed, and that seed bed has become more difficult to attain because of wet conditions and the heavier residue created by the better varieties and wet conditions. It’s all related. It’s a big circle.”

At the flick of a lever, the Powerflex can switch between rigid hitch mode and floating hitch mode. K-Line says the dual-operation machine can dig like a disc or serve as a finisher. | Ron Lyseng photo

One of the unique characteristics of the Speedtiller is the distinctively curved jump arms holding the discs. Symington said the curve is a North American modification, designed to let residue flow through the frame better than a straight arm. He said the upgrade is mainly aimed at heavy corn trash.

“Our jump arms have double the foot pounds down pressure of any other machine built in North America. At higher speeds, you’ll be pulling up rocks. The curved disc arms prevent rocks from getting caught and jammed. The discs on both gangs are at 16 degrees, which is pretty radical. Standard equipment is notched 24-inch disc blades on both gangs to get the full benefit of the aggressive angle.”

Arms are mounted on a four-inch square tube, with shock absorption for each arm provided by four rubber dampners. Rubber torsion absorbers are also used on the wings and rollers. He said the Speedtiller employs more rubber torsion absorbers than other cultivators, which is why it tolerates rocky conditions without damage or downtime.

“What we’re seeing with a lot of the high-speed tillage machines is they’re not doing a full cutout at the depth they’re set to run. If they’re set at three or four inches, the machine leaves uncut ribs in the soil. The Speedtiller is a high-speed one-pass machine that cuts all those ridges. You get 100 percent full soil movement so your seeder will have no problem putting the seed exactly where you want it.”

Symington said farmers appreciate the lateral disc adjustment that helps get a full cutout on the ground along with more blade wear out of the discs. The feature sets the front gang in relation to the rear gang. As discs wear, the gangs can be adjusted laterally to maintain full soil disturbance. He said operators run the blades three inches deep for seed bed preparation and up to six inches deep for trash management.

“Some farmers pull a ripper behind the Speedtiller. However, our Canadian guys generally use it as a one-pass machine to create a finished seed bed. Typically we run a little pressure on our rollers at the back, but in wet conditions we can float the rollers.”

Speedtiller can operate as a rigid hitch cultivator with the rear disc row hydraulically held at a constant working depth for maximum penetration. This gives the operator better cutting and incorporation of heavy trash, full soil disturbance and optimal weed control.

In the floating hitch mode, wheels set the depth of the front blades and rollers set the depth of the rear blades. This setup is used for seed bed preparation and wet conditions.

The discs run on sealed double-tapered roller bearings protected by a stainless steel shroud and a complex labyrinth canister seal with seven lips to keep the dust out. As proof of its confidence in the seal system, K-Line has just extended the warranty on its bearings to a full three years.

Symington said his company brought the first Speedtillers to North America five years ago. They are now sold through Avonlee in Manitoba and the Flaman group in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Speedtiller comes in three sizes. The 21-foot unit requires 240 horsepower as a minimum, lists at US$80,000 and folds to a transport width of 10 feet. The 31-foot machine requires 350 h.p., lists at $123,000 and folds to 12 feet. The 41-foot unit requires 425 h.p., is priced at $155,000 and folds to 16 feet.

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