Not many farmers smile when you ask them about plowing. Kyle Walker does. Maybe it's because once he deep-tills immediately after cotton or corn harvest, he parks the tractor and plow until planting.
His no-till system enables him to chop stalks, deep-till and smooth the surface all in one sweep, with one piece of equipment called the VersaTill.
Walker rotates corn, cotton and wheat, and occasionally soybeans, on his southern Texas Panhandle farm near Plainview. Most crops are watered by center-pivot or furrow irrigation. Some cotton is dryland.
Except at harvest and during peak irrigation times when extra help is needed, he farms roughly 1,600 acres by himself. He uses the combination plow highlighted by deep-till shanks bent at a 45° angle to “lift” or “bend” soil while loosening the hardpan.
The plow features three separate toolbars. The initial one is equipped with 20, 28" discs for chopping corn or cotton residue. The second maintains six deep-till shanks. The third toolbar supports a rear finishing attachment that smooths the surface.
“We decided to go with a no-till system in recent years,” says Walker. “Besides reducing the number of trips through the field, we also wanted to save wear on our equipment and conserve soil moisture.”
Before, Walker ran a chisel-chopper and moldboard. “We deep-broke everything, which was the wrong thing to do. We turned up all the moisture and encouraged blowing.”
The VersaTill plow helped solve his problem. The bent-leg shanks enabled him to loosen soil in the root zone without disturbing surface residue, which is essential in no-till. He plows 10" deep on his furrow-irrigated land and 12" deep on pivot-irrigated land (the legs can go 17" deep, if needed).
“The plow also provides for better water percolation, helping prevent runoff,” says Walker.
Production results add up to a 15- to 20-bu/acre higher yield on irrigated corn that tops 230 bu/acre. Similar yield increases are common with irrigated cotton. But dryland cotton that normally averages a half bale or 250 lbs/acre yields another 200 lbs of lint.
“We also save at least four trips through the field with this one-pass system,” says Walker.
Mississippi State University research shows that bent-leg tillage increases yields in corn and cotton. Normie Buehring, Mississippi State agronomist in Verona, says 30"-row corn had a 16% better yield in a one-pass system than in normal no-till and 8% better than in ridge-till.
Five-year average results for 30" continuous cotton show that beds in the bent-leg system yielded 861 lbs of lint per acre. That compares to 573 lbs for ridge-till, 700 for no-till, 716 for minimum-till and 728 for conventional-till.
“This type of plow lifts the soil and doesn't invert it,” says Buehring. “It traps the water.” He adds that the fall one-pass program “takes spring tillage out of the picture” and allows for more optimum planting, especially when rainfall slows land preparation.
The plow isn't limited to bent-leg shanks. It can also be fitted with parabolic rippers or other shanks, coulters for more difficult residue slicing and more choppers.
For more information, contact Bigham Brothers, Inc. (www.bighambroth ers.com ). Phone: 800-692-4449.