We take a look at Morris’ new prototype coulter drill and find out how one farmer who tested it rates its performance
Now that the R&D phase is over, Morris Industries is ready to let its new, independently-linked disc drill loose in the marketplace. The company has had four prototypes at work around the world over the past couple of seasons to get as much field experience and farmer feedback as possible before deciding on the drill’s final specifications.
“We had one in Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba,” says Don Henry, COO at Morris. “We also had one in Australia and one in Kazakhstan to get some more testing feedback. For us to come to the market with it, we’ve got to make sure it’s right.”
The company also took the unusual step of showing the drill at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina for the past two seasons, introducing it to farmers and getting their feedback as well.
Morris has already sold out its initial preproduction run of 10 drills, which will see farmers taking delivery of the first commercial versions in time for the upcoming seeding season. “We have sold a few units for spring of 2013, and we are finalizing all the production plans so we can start building them,” says Randy Ellis, director of North American marketing and sales. “We do plan to have a full production run ready for the spring of 2014.”
So far, models with working widths of 40 and 60 feet are production ready, but a 50-foot model will go into field trials this season. And Ellis expects it will be available by 2014, too.
So what specifications do the new drills have to offer? First, they use a 20-inch coulter disc mounted on a walking beam. Because that configuration pushes the disc through the soil, the walking beam design allows for better penetration and consistent ground following characteristics, according to Morris.
Connected to the walking beam behind the coulter is a 13-inch, double-shouldered packer wheel that closes the seed trench. The spoked, 16-inch gauge wheel that runs beside the disc also acts as a scraper, which improves the coulter’s mud-shedding ability allowing the drill to keep working in wet conditions.
The independent linkage gives the disc 18 inches of vertical travel to follow uneven terrain. Packing pressure is provided by the same hydraulic system Morris uses on its Contour Drill Series. Customers can get the new disc drill in 7.5-, 10- or 15-inch row spacings.
Robert Misko, who farms near Roblin, Manitoba, is one of the farmers who’ve had a chance to test a 60-foot prototype. It was set up for 10-inch row spacings. He took it into his fields last season, seeding corn, wheat and canola. “I think we did about 4,500 acres,” he says.
Misko says he’s found disc drills — generally — are very good when it comes to consistently and accurately placing seed. “I prefer a coulter drill,” he explains. “With a shank drill, there is usually a gap between the gauge wheel and the opener. If you’re going along on a field and you hit a clump of straw or a molehill, the shank goes right through it before the gauge wheel even sees it. With this one (the Morris drill), if I go through a washout or a rut, it seeds right through it. It doesn’t miss any part. You can see the seeds are all coming up evenly. And I like the field finish. It’s smooth.”
And in his experience, disc drills perform just as well as shank-style versions in difficult field conditions. He had an opportunity to see if that rule held true for Morris’ prototype during the wet spring conditions last year.
“I went through some (conditions) no drill should go really through,” he says. “I never had a stitch of trouble, never plugged a packer wheel, never did anything. It just rolled right through it.”
Aside from being able to work through tough conditions, one of the biggest advantages the new disc drill offers is fast field speeds. Misko says he was able to pull the prototype at 7-1/2 to eight m.p.h. and still get very consistent seed placement. “That’s the big advantage of a disc drill,” he says. “You can make acres fast.”
“There is a segment of the market that likes disc drills,” says Henry. “There’s definitely some guys with big acres that want to get over it in a short period of time, and certainly with the disc you can increase your speed dramatically, because you’re not moving any dirt. That’s appealing to a lot of guys.”
But just how fast is best for any particular farmer depends on a few variables. One of them is how much product you want to put down with the seed, according to Garth Massie, Morris’ corporate agronomist. “That’s a big consideration, how fast you’re going and how much product you’re putting down,” he says. “We know farmers generally run these machines pretty fast.”
Coulter wear rates also tend to increase with higher working speeds, notes Ellis.
To pull the 60-foot prototype drill and the prototype 680-bushel seed cart mated to it, Misko used a Case IH Steiger 435. The tractor had no trouble matching the drill’s draft requirements, but because he was travelling fast, working some of his rolling land necessitated dropping down a gear on the uphill pulls. “It’s not the draft that slows you down (on hills), it’s just dead weight,” he says. On relatively level fields, the tractor had no trouble maintaining that 7-1/2 to eight m.p.h. ground speed.
Is there anything Misko would change on the drill? “No. Not really,” he answers. “They had some boot configurations that had a bit of an issue holding hoses in. They already had that figured out and said they were going to change that. But in general, I was pretty happy with the way it worked.”
Some of the hose lengths on the prototype were a little short, which was the primary cause of the problem Misko experienced, Ellis explains. That was an easy fix for the production models.
As well, the openers themselves will see some very minor modifications to better accommodate the manufacturing process. “We’re making some minor tweaks to the design of the opener to make it more efficient for production,” he says. “We’re reducing the number of welds.”
Routine maintenance on the new drill is down to two grease zerks per opener. They only need greasing every 50 or 100 hours, depending on the location.
Surprisingly, the new Morris coulter drill still doesn’t have a name or number designation. “We’ve been asking our staff and some of our customers to come up with an appropriate name,” says Henry. “Hopefully, in the near future we’ll have that.” †