If you gave up on ridge-till because you were tired of planting crops eight or 12 rows at a time, look again. Bill Secor Jr. and his father, Bill Sr., run a 24-row ridge planter with no problems.
The Secors, Fort Dodge, IA, plante d their fifth crop with their Case IH Cyclo planter last spring.
"We went to the 24-row planter because we needed to plant more acres in a day," Bill Secor Jr. explains. "We couldn't cover the acreage we needed to in the time we wanted to without running the 12-row planter at 10 mph. With the 24-row planter, we can stay in ridges and plant at a reasonable speed."
To convert the planter for ridges, they equipped it with Dawn interlocking residue wheels, mounted on the row units, and ridge guiders made by FSH Manufacturing, Henderson, NE.
"The ridge guider is similar to Buffalo's Hip Hugger, but isn't mounted rigidly to the frame of the planter," Secor explains. "Instead, it's connected mechanically to four steerable coulters. When the planter moves to the side, the ridge guiders turn the coulters, which pull the planter back up on the ridges. With this guidance system, we're almost always planting within an inch of last year's rows."
Before planting, they use a 12-row fertilizer injector with Aschermann coulters to place fertilizer deep into the ridge sides. They also inject anhydrous ammonia with a 13-knife toolbar.
"The two outside knives put on a half rate," Secor notes.
While they don't put down fertilizer with the planter, they do use it to band herbicide over the rows.
"We've equipped it with two sets of nozzles, so we can broadcast if the weed pressure at planting time warrants it," he points out.
They now use a Case IH 9330 articulated four-wheel-drive tractor to pull the planter and carry two 250-gallon saddle tanks full of herbicide.
"For the first two years we used a tractor with front-wheel assist, but with similar horsepower. It had plenty of power, but was not as stable on the road with the folded and raised planter behind. The drawbar on the 9330 just seems more substantial."
Secor says the new tractor also handles better in the field. Turning the rig around, though, can still be a problem.
"We do have to stay on the right ridges," Secor comments. "Even with 24 end rows, it's still a problem to turn it short enough. And it's a long way to the end of the toolbar, so lining up on the correct rows can be a problem until you get used to it."
The Secors still use two 12-row cultivators to clean out weeds and rebuild ridges.
"One company makes a 24-row cultivator, but right now 12 rows are enough to watch. As long as we can both cultivate, that's the way we'll do it."
In addition to cultivating, they band postemergence herbicides, particularly on soybeans. They put together a 24-row bander for this purpose. Like the planter, it has a second set of nozzles so a broadcast application is possible.
The growers use two combines: Case IH models 2166 and 2188. Both are set up with duals spaced to straddle the ridges.
"They make the machine more stable in the field, but driving it down the road is a little more of a challenge. When you need to move over for a car to pass, that right wheel hangs out a long way."
Soybeans are harvested with eight-row corn heads and 20' platform heads.
"We decided to stay with eight-row widths for harvesting. Both combines are set up with yield monitors and GPS, and we feel we get more detailed yield information from eight rows than we would from 12-row or 30' platform heads."
The bottom line on big ridge-till equipment for the Secors: It multiplies the time savings the system offers.
"We have a good-sized hog operation and it always suffered at planting time because of the amount of labor crop production required. We're still under pressure at planting, but the 24-row planter has definitely helped," Secor concludes.