The Use and Construction of Home Made Implements
by A.J. Ogaard & H.E. Murdock, issued by the Extension Service of Montana State College, Circular No. 47, May 1921
This circular has been prepared to answer the ever increasing inquiries received regarding the construction and use of homemade tillage implements, designed for effective summer tillage. The breakdown of the continuous cropping system on the dry farms of Montana has created a timely although somewhat belated interest in summer tillage and intertilled crops. There is a demand and an urgent need for the dissemination of information with reference to the principles underlying successful summer tillage as well as some definite suggestions as to their application. The discussion presented regarding tillage practices is far from complete. Where the soil, climate and other factors vary to such an extent, it is difficult to make anything but rather general suggestions, leaving the details to the judgment and experience of the farmer himself.
The tillage requirements for the successful handling of summer fallowing, demanded the use of implements designed especially for the work. While the disk and the spike tooth harrows have their place, their use in summer tillage is often open to considerable objection from the standpoints of effective weed eradication and the control of soil blowing. Implement manufacturers are meeting the demands for a specialized implement with machines of merit. It is now possible to purchase a make of machine to suit almost any condition if the money is available. There is no doubt that eventually they will be quite generally used. However, the dry farmers are at present hard pressed financially and in many instances the purchase of very much machinery is out of the question. For the man of small means or limited acreage, a homemade implement may be utilized at least temporarily. This circular presents a description of a few of the types of such machines which can be constructed in the farm shop or by the local blacksmith at a normal cost.
Some Principles: The successful dry farmer must keep the purposes for which he is cultivating definitely in mind, while choosing or using any particular implement. The blind following of rules has no place on the dry farm. The problem may be considered from any or all of the four angles:
- Seed bed preparation.
- Moisture conservation.
- Weed eradication.
- Soil blowing control.
Seed Bed Preparation: While an ideal seed bed is not always attainable it is well to keep in mind what would constitute a reasonably good seed bed. There is ample opportunity for the capitalization of good judgment in its preparation. For small grains, it is important that there be provided proper conditions for germination of the seed and subsequent growth, before seeding, because very little can be done to correct a poor seed bed thereafter. This is not as important with intertilled crops like corn or potatoes for with them subsequent cultivation is possible. Even then the substitution of cultivation for seed bed preparation is generally poor economy. While other considerations like soil blowing may modify the kind of seed bed desirable, it is generally agreed that the ideal condition between the plowed layer and the subsoil should be close. Air spaces should be reduced to a minimum. The soil should be as free as possible from weed seeds. In any event, the grain should be given an equal chance by the killing of all weed growth immediately before seeding. Moisture should be available for germination at ht best seeding depth and this condition should continue into the subsoil.
Moisture Conservation: It is important that as much of the precipitation be absorbed by the soil as possible. The reduction of losses by “runoff” is essential. The so called “dust mulch” is not generally efficient in this respect, especially on the heavier clay soils. A rigid, slightly lumpy surface will tend to hold the moisture sufficiently to allow the subsurface to absorb it, while a finely pulverized surface is apt to “puddle” and become almost waterproof.
Aside from the use of moisture by growing crops and weeds, we are concerned with the direct losses from the surface of the soil itself. The farmer probably overestimates the losses from the subsurface through direct evaporation. There is no question that a soil mulch does aid in preventing losses of water but ordinarily cultivation for the sole and only purpose of maintaining a mulch, dissipates as much moisture as is saved. (This statement apples to average dry land conditions.) An exception to this must be made on heavy soils which upon drying are apt to check badly. On our gumbo lands, deep cracks are invariably the rule as the soil dries. The inevitable losses of moisture through circulation of air within these cracks, should be controlled by cultivation. Ordinarily, however, it has been found that under dry land conditions, where there is an absence of free water table within a reasonable depth, the control of weeds is a more important function of cultivation than the maintenance of mulch.
Weed Control: The greatest losses of soil moisture are due to growing vegetation and it is therefore evident that the elimination of weeds, the prime dissipators of soil moisture, should be of first importance. The time to kill weeds is when they are young and tender. A stitch in time saves nine in weed control. The job should also be thorough. It is important that implements be used that do not allow the weeds to slip or escape destruction in any other way. Shallow cultivation is generally recommend- ed. Stirring the soil deeply causes direct losses of soil moisture without any advantage in weed control in spite of the fact that the draft of the implement is increased. Some of the special machines are a big improvement over the ordinary implements used.
Soil Blowing: Some methods are out of the question on light soils that are apt to blow. As the organic matter in our soils becomes exhausted, more trouble along this line may be expected. Ordinarily it is deemed best to cover stubble, straw and trash, but on soils apt to blow, the trash and lumps should be brought to the surface. Many of the newer types of tillage implements tend to sift the fine soil below the clod mulch so desirable on top. Ridging the soil at right angles to the prevailing winds is also an aid in keeping the surface soil in place. To obtain the clod surface, it is necessary to use the proper machine when the soil is moist. Working the soil while dry has a pulverizing effect. Implements vary in this regard, however. Some types will pulverize very little as they do not disturb the top soil to any marked degree.
Bearing these principles in mind, we are ready to look over the available machines. It is not our aim to make any specific recommendations, for the final choice will depend on local conditions and individual preference.
Types of Commercial Machines
Machines having a place in the proper handling of summer tilled land may be classified into the following types:
- Spike tooth harrow.
- Spring tooth harrow.
- Disk harrow.
- Acme weeders.
- Rod weeder.
- Spring tooth weeder.
- Blade weeders.
- Duckfoot cultivators.
- Combinations of above.