Ask a group of experts what producers are looking for in new tillage equipment today and the most common answer will likely be “speed.” In this case, that means the ability to get tillage operations finished quickly with as few passes as possible.
But speed only tells part of the story. The bigger picture behind speed is the ever-tightening time bottleneck producers face every year. The result has been a heightened industry emphasis on high-speed disks (HSDs) which cut, size and incorporate high levels of crop residue with a design which — true to its name — facilitates speed on the tractor side.
At a glance: Case IH’s Speed-Tiller High-Speed Disk series and Salford Group’s Halo platform increase tillage efficiency.
Increasingly unpredictable weather has had a big impact on the amount of time farmers have to complete tillage ops.
“The window seems to shrink every year. The ‘new normal’ is that there is no normal,” says Scott Rodger, general manager of Lemken in Canada, one of the pioneers of the HSD movement.
Farm size is another factor. “The high-speed disk really came in at a time when farmers were expanding. They were buying more land and growing larger acreage.
“Mixing the higher residues was becoming more and more important while at the same time reducing passes. High-speed disks were the answer to this trend.”
Speed, agronomics key
Case IH’s latest response to producers’ need for speed is the Speed-Tiller High-Speed Disk series. It includes the mounted 465 model and the trailing 475 version. The latter is capable of soil management up to 12 miles per hour, says Chris Lursen, tillage marketing manager with Case IH. But what he feels really sets the tool apart is its agronomic capabilities.
“It leaves a smooth surface — which customers really like — but also leaves a smooth subsurface. It basically makes that profile from your disk blade depth to your surface smooth and fully worked, which really gives it the ability to remove weeds and root balls to create a fully-worked profile versus a more rough, rugged, less worked and more compacted profile.”
The Salford Group is probably best known for its Independent series, which introduced independently mounted blades and became known for its less-intrusive approach to residue management. Salford is entering the world of high-speed disks with its recently debuted Halo platform.
Kris Wright, product manager of ground engaging tools for Salford, attests to this trend towards efficiency, reliability and high-speed ground coverage.
“(Producers are) travelling at higher speeds — usually higher than eight-and-a-half miles per hour but quite often north of 10 miles per hour,” he says.
The high-speed disk version of the Halo — the Halo HSD — is the same in principle as many similar tools on the market, says Wright. However, it’s a response to customers’ desire for an HSD platform carrying the Salford brand.
“There have been customers out there who have asked us if we are going to create a high-speed disk platform. The Halo is for customers who want a high-speed disk and also want to be able to say they own a Salford and the quality that goes along with that connotation.”
The Halo also comes in an aeration version called the Halo AerWay (AerWay refers to a company Salford acquired in 2015). Residue management is a focus of this product, which uses tines to lift and fracture the soil while leaving it intact.
The AerWay tines penetrate eight inches deep. The tines are designed at an angle (referred to as a “lean”) and include a “twist.”
“As that tine goes through the soil, the lean and the twist fracture and twist the soil to allow infiltration of air and water, in the process reducing compaction,” says Wright.
“In a spring application it would promote root growth, whereas in a fall application it helps stimulate the breakdown of the trash that is left behind by the combine.”
High-speed disks go by a number of different names, including “compact” or “short” disks. They can also be referred to as “discs,” which is the case with Lemken and its compact disc harrow line. This line includes the Heliodor, the Rubin 10 and the Rubin 12.
Although these tools offer a range of different features, perhaps the primary difference between them is working depth, says Rodger.
“Some producers might just want to do a shallow run over the top. Others might want to go a little bit deeper, while some might want to go down as deep as eight to nine centimetres. So, basically, the speed disc option depends on how deep they want to work and how much mixing they want to do.”
Soil compaction is a production concern the company frequently hears about. One option the company offers is called the Karat, which Rodger describes as a cultivator/subsoiler hybrid which can break up compaction hardpan at depths as low as 12 inches.
“It can also incorporate a little bit of residue to help spring planting. It really depends on the agronomy of your soil and what you’re looking to accomplish. Something that farmers should do on a regular basis is look at the soil structure and analyze what you need to do to maximize your yields.”