RTK auto guidance helps Dal Luther make precise use of his tractor, planter, sprayer and harvesters. But count this brainstormed, shop-built multi-plow implement as yet another tool that saves you labor, time and money.

The northeast Arkansas grower farms in Leachville, a few miles from the Missouri border. He grows about 900 acres of corn, 600 acres of soybeans, 900 acres of cotton and a few sweet potatoes. And he relies on down time spent in his multi-facet shop for mapping out his rotation strategy, as well as fine-tuning equipment.

“We minimum-till on 38-in. rows and plant a cover crop in the centers,” says Luther, 35, a young-gun grower always looking for ways to improve efficiency. “We built a plow that enables us to skip three or even four trips through the field.”

He and a couple of friends “played with the idea” of the multi-task plow before perfecting it in early 2009,” says Luther.

The tool is built on a 12-row W&A DoAll plow. Luther started the revisions by adding a second 4 in. x 4 in. toolbar. He then added chisel-plow shanks with points included. Next came attachment of middle busters, then a Valmar air seeder to add yet another feature to the super plow.

“The tool can chop stalks, run the middles, bed-up the rows, sow seed and run an irrigation pipe middle for watering – all in one pass,” he says.

He ran the plow over most of his acres earlier this year and had great success. “We saved up to four trips across the field and a lot of time,” says Luther, adding that the multi-plow worked perfectly with his GPS system.

“We run the Deere GreenStar system on everything we do. With the freedom to watch the equipment more closely, we can prevent equipment problems,” he says.

Shop-built implements are still common, even though there is a wealth of new equipment with electronic wizardry on the market. Randall Reeder, Ohio State University ag engineer, says farm shops are better equipped than 50 years ago to tailor implements to their cropping systems.

“Farmers have more capability to build something and are better educated. They have more access to experts than 50 years ago,” he says.

“We once had just a choice of a moldboard plow, a disk and a couple of others. That was pretty much it. Now, there are various combinations of tools – over 100 to choose from – and I bet many of these concepts began in a farm shop. Look at corn planters and all the things people have changed or added to make them work better,” Reeder adds.

Luther says the majority of his planting program still involves a Case hydraulic Early Riser planter. “We do all we can to save time, fuel and money,” he says.

September 2010