We get to share with you the latest advancements in tillage technology and fertilizer placement. Two experts from Salford Group joined us to talk about how far things have come and where technology is taking us in the future. Listen in to get up to speed and gather details on how you can enter to win a sweet Orion cooler for being a listener!
What’s Working in AG - TBD
Brad Baker is Vice President - Sales, Marketing and Product Management for Salford Group.
Brad started as a mechanical engineering technologist and In 2014 Brad became Salford’s first official Product Manager, taking an overarching view of the needs in the market place, and coordinating engineering, production and sales to meet the needs of farmers. In 2019 Brad stepped into the role of Vice President, a natural progression for his career path at Salford.Brad enjoys spending time, and travelling, with his wife and two children. He has passion for high performance machinery that once took him to France to see the world class Le Mans endurance race. He also enjoys riding snowmobile when the winters in Southern Canada cooperate.
We launched a new series of high-speed tillage tools over the last two years and seed bed preparation was key in our design focus from the beginning. For example, we optimized the blade angle and spacing between the rows of coulters on the HALO HSD (our compact disk variant of the HALO) to optimize soil flow for more even distribution. We also worked hard to eliminate a common problem seen with compact disks, which is “porpoising”. This is a phenomenon that occurs in tougher soil conditions where the front coulters begin to lift out of the ground at higher speed and them re-engage, causing the tool to oscillate similar to how a porpoise swims in the water. Obviously, this leaves an undesirable condition for seeding, so it was important for use to resolve it. Without revealing our secrets too much, we paid close attention to the manner in which we applied down pressure. It took a lot of testing, but we are confident we have one of the best high-speed disks on the market for sed bed preparation.
We also introduced a new finishing system for the HALO series this past year, which is a double rolling basket system. We really like to leveling job this system does. It’s a pair of 14” diameter rolling baskets with opposing helixes on a walking axle. The down pressure can be adjusted from the cab of the tractor. We were surprise at just how versatile this setup is in a lot of different soil types and conditions. It is optimal for seed bed preparation.
We also have the new HALO VRT. This is our most advanced tillage tool to date and really is the year-round tillage solution many of our customers have been seeking. In terms of seed bed preparation it can do it all. You can adjust the angle of the rows of independently mount coulters on the fly. Therefore it running a minimum tillage past ahead of the planter and want to level out some ruts from last fall, you can adjust the coulter angles on the fly to a more aggressive position to level ruts in the same pass. It brings a new level of precision to tillage and we’re very excited about it.
Finally, our Independent Series line of tools continue to be great options, especially with dealing with high levels of residue and moist conditions because of the greater area around each individual coulter. We’ve had customers run tools like the I-1200 or I-2200 (true vertical tillage models) in the fall and not need a tillage pass in the spring. The independent coulters work much better than a traditional gang in maintaining tillage depth across the tillage swath. The I-4200, a hybrid tillage model that mixes concave coulters with wavy VT coulters to provide a little more lateral soil movement to provide more leveling action. This product has been a go-to for seedbed preparation for many of our customers.
Vertical Tillage – “Independent Series”
It is becoming more likely that tillage will join the precision space as we learn to leverage the field data we’re collecting. The application of tillage plays such an integral role in cop production that it seems absurd that it isn’t managed in the same way as nutrient application or crop protection. Like both of these operations, tillage – when over applied, can have a detrimental effect, so it will be important long-term to find ways to apply it on an as need basis within the field. We have been preparing for this for years by building several system with on-the-fly capability, whether it be our hydraulic engaging tillage shanks on our Independent series, hydraulically adjustable finishing systems, and now, the fully adjustable HALO VRT.
Like with prescription application, there are benefits to not over applying tillage in the field. For one thing if you only require more aggressive tillage in some sections of your field due to ruts or compactions zones, you can reduce fuel consumption by adjusting to a lighter setting on the fly. This of course saves time as you don’t have to stop and manual set the machine to accomplish this. The high speed also increases the acres per hour on the tool, which can not only increase the productivity of the tool itself, but also avoids creating a bottle neck that can slow down the seeding operation in the spring.
What is harder to measure is the benefits brought to the stewardship of the land. By now, it is clear that good management of the soil structure and ecosystem is crucial to the long term production capacity of the land. We’ve all seen how overapplication of tillage can result in soil erosion and depletion. It can also offset the benefit of prescription nutrient application by mobilizing and type of controlled release nutrient. Therefore, it needs to be integrated into how he execute precision agriculture in order for us to see its full benefit.
Yes – you should be checking this every season. We have a very robust bearing in our coulters, both for the independent series and for the HALO. The HALO’s use greaseless hubs while the Independent Series use greaseable hubs. Truthfully, a well greases independent series hub will go on for a very long time before needing replacement. We would have gone this direction with the HALO as well, however, the compact frame design made hub access difficult so we went with the greaseless setup instead. Its always a good idea each season to check for play in the hubs.
Check your blades as well. Remember that wavy VT blades lose their effectiveness when worn down to a certain diameter. We like to tell customers to replace when those blades are about 80-85% of their original diameter to keep the blades effective.
Its no secret there are supply issues out there. This has almost created a situation similar to the toilet paper panic buying at the beginning of COVID. The same is going on with parts with many manufacturers hoarding with the intent to have enough parts on hand. It’s created a challenge
We are definitely carrying more inventory than usual, however we have not needed to be too excessive. We treat our suppliers well and those relationships have helped us. While there are some shortages of certain sizes of tires and some electronic components, overall we are very robust. We don’t intent to leave a customer down in the field this spring.
We’re seeing a major transition in ag as we speak. Autonomy, electrification, precision. The trend of producer adoption in the coming years will continue. We believe we are well positioned for this as it evolves.
As equipment manufacturers, you have to be ready for the big disruptions. We’re always watching developments in genetics, or chemistry that my give growers a new edge, perhaps one that eliminates the need for a certain operation on the farm. But if you stay on top of the industry and look out into that 5-10 year window you can pivot and adapt. Salford has always been very good at this. It’s said internally that we want to be the ones to obsolete our own products.
As long as you’re operating machinery in the field, tillage is always going to be needed to some degree. Ruts, compaction, pivot tracks from irrigation – these can’t be eliminated without some tillage. As we mentioned, tillage will become a matter of precise application rather than a one-practice-fits-all operation. Organics and herbicide resistance are also factors. Crop production requires you to constantly adapt to a new set of variables with every growing season. Our products will continue to adapt as well.