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Farm-built subsoiler combats compaction

Alberta farmer finds a low-cost solution by modifying old Rome Plow

Robert Snider, who farms near New Norway, Alta., found he had a problem with soil compaction in some parts of his fields and the result was poor drainage.

“In the low spots, it gets so hard the moisture does’t seem to soak in,” he told Grainews.

Snider came up with a low-cost solution to solve that problem. Parked and unused in his machinery yard for years was an old Rome Plow, which looked like it could be the ideal basis for a modified implement to take to the field and break up hardpan.

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“I had it sitting there, and I (modified) it (last) fall,” he said.

The three-shank Rome Plow originally had a six-foot-wide sweep in the centre and a five-foot-wide one on each wing. Snider cut them down to just 16-inch widths and modified the linkage on the frame to allow for 20 inches of ground penetration.

“We just go out in the gumbo and alkali patches and sink it down about 20 inches,” he added. “I didn’t do anything to the frame. On those, there were two positions for the outer blades. The centre one is permanent, but on the outer ones, I brought them in two feet. There are two mounts. The same frame could be used for two different sizes of (original) blades.”

Snider decided on the new, 16-inch sweep width in order to accommodate the existing mounting bolt locations on the shank, which are five inches apart. He bolted eight-inch side sections into the original bolt holes and welded them together in the centre.

“That worked out for the bolt holes,” he said. “I cut the ends off so there was two inches on either side of the five-inch spacing.”

Cutting down the original very wide sweeps (shown on the left) to just 16 inches (shown on the right) allows for deep penetration when subsoiling.
photo: Robert Snider

When those modified sweeps wear out, Snider will keep cutting off smaller sections of the original very wide ones to use as replacements.

“You just keep cutting chunks off the old blades and weld them together in the front where the V is,” he said. “I took from the back end of the blade where it wears the least and it’s the thickest. It gives you a little bit wider plate to work with.”

The three shanks are about eight feet apart on the frame, so when running it through the field, Snider makes a part overlap, which results in furrows four feet apart.

He was a little concerned the original Rome frame wouldn’t be strong enough to handle the deep penetration, but the old design has proven to be more than up to the task. The only other modification required was to reposition the hydraulic cylinder on the lifting linkage to allow the shanks to get down deeper than the original company engineers intended.

Snider uses his 135-horsepower tractor to pull it, which is easily capable of moving it along at four miles per hour.

After having used his invention for a season, is there anything he would change on his design?

“When I found it, it pulled that easy, I don’t think I’m going to have to do anything,” he said. “I might move the shanks out to make a five-foot (furrow) spacing for each half round.”

Snider thinks this could be a low-cost option for a lot of producers to consider when deciding how to deal with similar soil conditions, as most farms have a pretty good workshop to use to make the modifications.

“I’ve built a lot of things in my shop. I’ve got everything in the shop I wished I had 40 years ago,” he said.

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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