No matter what he tried, Grand Island, NE, farmer Ned Meier couldn't lock down equipment tight enough on his tractor's 3-point hitch to get the accuracy he wanted. So, he built a machine that can't achieve perfect control, but is certainly more accurate.
“When you mount equipment on the back of a tractor, the rear wheels become a pivot point and the front wheels don't have enough weight to keep a planter or cultivator from moving side to side,” Meier says. “So, I built a tool carrier (he doesn't like to call it a tractor) with two toolbars positioned between the front and rear axles. I want to be able to stay within ± 1 in. of the row.”
It took several winters of work and a lot of phone calls for Meier to develop his hydraulic-powered tool carrier that he planted with for the second time in 2007. The heart of the system is an IQAN hydraulic controller that directs power to all four wheels, steering cylinders, lift cylinders and auxiliary outlets.
At planting, Meier mounts a modified, 8-row 36-in. ridge cleaner on the front 3-point hitch and his planter on the rear Quick-tach hitch. Using two toolbars gives Meier plenty of clearance for handling the crop residue of his ridge-till system.
“We mount four tanks on the tool carrier frame. Two 300-gal. tanks carry starter fertilizer, one 230-gal. tank carries herbicide and another carries rootworm insecticide,” Meier says. “We place the herbicide in a 12-14 in. band, and that's the only chemical we use for weed control.”
Shop-built fertilizer units place liquid fertilizer 2 × 2 in. beside the seed row. “We just couldn't get fertilizer placed where we wanted it with other units we tried,” he says. “We got a significant improvement this year. The corn came up quickly, had a green, rich color and it took off more quickly than before.”
A wet spring delayed planting, and Meier faced a healthy crop of dandelions by the time he finished planting. “The row cleaners covered a lot of the dandelions at planting, and we took out the rest with the cultivator,” he says.
At cultivating, Meier mounts one toolbar with Lilliston-style rolling units on the front hitch, set to pull soil away from the plants. A second toolbar, mounted on the rear hitch, has the same units set to throw soil back toward the plant. Meier's precision machine allows him to mechanically control weeds without damaging the crop.
“We use the same fertilizer units again when we cultivate and put down 50 gal. of 28% N liquid fertilizer,” he says. “The units are set 6-8 in. away from the row. It takes some time to apply the fertilizer because I have to refill every 20 acres. But the system eliminates problems we had with nitrogen deficiency on lighter soils later in the season.”
Meier hopes other farmers will be interested in the tool carrier he calls the Precision Trac. As herbicide-resistant weeds become more of a problem, he figures precise mechanical weed control may come back into favor. “Really, it's a machine you can use anywhere you need precision control of any type of implement,” he says.