Planting started early here in southern Indiana. We’ve had such a strange spring with warm, dry weather that farmers got into the fields much earlier than normal.
One of the things that farmers do to prepare their fields for planting is tilling to break up the soil and prepare the seed bed so the ground is ready to plant.
Alan is using the 25-foot Excelerator tiller to get this field ready for planting corn.
This tiller has four parts.
The first row of fluted blades start to break the soil up into smaller clods (chunks), and start to mix the soil with the plant residue from last year. The blades in the front can be adjusted to different angles. A shallow angle (1 degree) keeps most of the plant residue near the surface of the soil, and a steeper angle (5 degrees) allows for more mixing of the plant residue with the deeper soil.
The second row of fluted blades are set between the first row of blades, so they are breaking up soil that wasn’t touched by the first row of fluted blades. They help push soil and residue towards the next row of star blades.
The star blades mix things up even more, and help to keep the plant residue just below the soil surface. The plant residue from last year’s crops will decompose and act as natural fertilizer for this year’s crops. It also helps prevent erosion from wind and helps maintain moisture in the soil. (This field was planted in soybeans last year, and there is not much residue. A field that was planted in corn last year would have much more residue.)
Finally, the reel on the back acts as the last step to break up soil clods, and smooths the surface of the soil out to an even texture.
The hydraulics on the back of the tiller allow Alan to adjust the amount of pressure that the tiller uses to break up the ground. For this field, a pressure of 150-200 psi (pounds per square inch) was used, which will give soil penetration of 1.5 inches.
This is a new tiller design. It can go up to 10 miles per hour, where most other models can only go around 5 miles an hour. The faster speed results in fuel savings (7.4 miles per gallon at 10 mph, versus less than 6 miles per gallon at 5 mph). And, obviously, it lets Alan get more tilling done faster. Going 10 mph, Alan can till around 20 acres in an hour (versus an hour and a half at 5 mph).
Do you want to see how the whole thing works? Check out this short video of the Excelerator tiller in action!
Big thanks to Alan and Brian Douglas, the father and son team of Douglas Farms in Princeton, Indiana for letting me tag along in the field with them, and for teaching me about corn planting!