Tough Toolbars

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Dalton NH3 Toolbar

“Anhydrous is level. It’s always there and it’s an economical product,” says Andy Anderson, vice president of marketing for Thurston Manufacturing. One factor that may be keeping anhydrous ammonia (NH3) in the mix is the growing use of strip-till. “Strip-till adoption is receiving a big boost from technologies like RTK guidance, multiple fertilizer product banding, and better residue clearance — even for corn after corn,” says Tony Vyn, agronomist and cropping systems research and Extension specialist with Purdue University.

Dave Long, soil management marketing specialist with Case IH (also representing the DMI brand), says toolbar sales in general are strong, in both grower and ag retailer markets.

Pieces Parts

Long says buyers want tailored rigs, in terms of accessories and attachments. For instance, growers working in wheat stubble or standing corn residues need to handle the trash. To help, Case IH offers optional 24-inch diameter coulters with its new NTX5300 fertilizer applicators. Long says they’re the heaviest in the industry — to “slice through extra-tough residue and eliminate plugging and bunching.” The NTX5300 is also expandable and can be combined with a liquid tank option for dual placement of liquid fertilizers and NH3.

Many strip-till growers like to place NH3 in the fall when the application window after harvest can be longer. Ag Systems’ Vice President Paul Lenz notes that his company’s NitroMaster 8500 has a width of 62 feet and can cover more rows — for fewer passes and higher productivity.

“We’re seeing more guys wanting to do strip-till, and they definitely want to run a monitor — so they can map their anhydrous application, for instance,” says Greg Armour, Illinois and western Indiana territory sales manager for Richland Sales (a GVM company), says his company began carrying Dalton anhydrous toolbars two years ago — switching from a competitor. He not only likes the DW Series monitor but the bars’ quality construction, saying “they’re good, heavy toolbars.”

Thurston’s Anderson says that Blu-Jet staff are particularly excited about the strip-till toolbar package they’ve put together, which includes name-branded coulters, shanks, residue managers, disk hillers, and rolling baskets (to tuck soil back down). The assembly measures 8 feet from the front coulter to the back of the baskets.

In addition, the AT5000 fertilizer applicator combines an extremely deep toolbar rank with constant-level framework that maintains even knife penetration at any depth.

Productivity Points

Growers are calling for increased productivity in the form of more speed, says Case IH’s Long. Toolbars need to be rugged enough to handle the horsepower today’s tractors are putting out.

Hard, rocky, chunky soils can be a problem, notes Anderson. “In the harder soils north of Interstate 80, operators should only reach 5 mph, while in better soils south, they can shoot for 9 to 10 mph,” he says.

Rich Follmer, owner of Progressive Farm Products, says that productivity also can be increased by applying more than anhydrous in a pass. Growers are looking for the ability to put down phosphorous and potash too. “Our rigs can carry those fertilizers on the toolbar, so we don’t have to pull two items behind it,” says Follmer.

Case IH also has introduced more precise control systems so buyers can reduce skips and overlaps. “These controllers fit well with anhydrous bars, and the adoption curve for them has been pretty steep,” says Long.

Then, too, the automatic steering trend is advancing in NH3 application. In fact, Follmer says his company is looking to take precision technology a step higher on its anhydrous rigs. “We’ll be guiding the toolbar by GPS — the actual implement — in addition to or instead of the tractor,” he explains.

Anderson says fertilizer co-ops are bundling agronomy services (with product recommendations and custom variable-rate applications — done with precision technology.

Heacox is a Contributing Editor for the CropLife Media Group, which includes CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines, and the PrecisionAg Special Reports.

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