Residue Management- Schulte Soilstar
I have been on a quest to find the perfect tillage tools for my farm for quite some time now. I had demo'd a Pro-Till and a Lemkin when they broke onto the scene a few years back. Excited by the field finish, but disappointed when seeding through the lodged cereal stubble the next spring. This lead me on a search for something more... something... variable! The idea of adjustable gang angle is not new, but it hasn't been perfected. Summers, Great Plains, Mandako, and Gates, among others, have been using this concept for years. Each implement a little different than the next, but in my opinion, somewhat rough around the edges. The idea of tillage in my area had been all but forgotten about, with the onslaught of no-till seeding equipment, and a fairly dry 10 year span where the sloughs and low spots had been farmed through, and forgotten that they had ever held water. A heavy harrow was all you needed in this new age of farming! But the sloughs slowly filled, and the wet falls have come back from their hiatus since the 80s, which affects tillage requirements. It was during this weather trend towards wetter conditions when I decided I needed a tool to manage slough bottoms full of weeds, lodged cereal stubble, and poorly chopped residue. I knew that a heavy disc would do the job I needed it to, but was it the best choice? These paralink drills that we use these days are truly phenomenal pieces of equipment, but they don't perform well in loose soil, nor does any hoe drill really. So maybe a nice heavy disc with a rolling basket?.... But then I asked myself, why uproot all the root systems if I didn't really need to. leaving that stubble anchored would help keep residue flow issues to a minimum. But I still felt that bringing up some black dirt to promote decomposition, and aid in the warming of the soil in spring was important. In my opinion, here in NE Alberta, soil warming cannot be over looked.
I eventually settled on a 40' Gates Coulter Disc II, and it has been doing a decent job on our farm for 3 years now. But I see areas where it could be improved. For the most part I run the gang angle at 7 degrees. this keeps about 75% of the stubble anchored to the ground, throws around some black dirt, and does not burry the straw. In theory, lodged cereal stubble is chopped up by the coulters, spread by the harrows, and packed by the rolling basket to begin decomposition... this unfortunately isn't reality. Even at 800lbs/ft the coulters roll over the lodged straw, and the residue management is left to the harrows. the extremely heavy 2 bar harrows on the gates actually do a decent job and I have never had a major wreck in the spring because of it. This is when I started to think I had gotten my residue management strategy wrong. I began looking toward the gates coulter harrow, but ultimately decided that it was simply too light to turn up any amount of black dirt in our generally "dry" heavier clay soil in fall time. So I waited. I anxiously awaited the release of the Versatile Fury, but found that it was pretty much a carbon copy of its predecessors, and not what I was looking for.
Fast forward to Ag In Motion 2018, and low and behold there it sat. A lime green behemoth of a harrow, the DHX-600, which had two rows of wavy coulters sitting under an implement that weighed in at 32000 lbs without its ballast tube full. Where did this unicorn come from!? And how did I not know about it!? Of course we were rushed that day, and all the Schulte reps were chatting with other patrons of the show, so I carried on to further my research on the drive home. Not only did Schulte come up with my dream residue management tool, but they came up with an innovative variable tillage unit that seemed to check all the boxes as well. These two pieces of machinery have the potential to handle all the tillage and residue management on our farm, in virtually any condition. Schulte did a poor job in releasing these units to the public, but maybe it was because they only are building 15 pre production units, and you cant even price out the 42' version of the VTX yet. The you-tube video release was sometime in February, and I was still watching videos on the Fury! They are not cheap, but they may have potential. Wait and see if we are able to get a demo this fall... fingers crossed!
Does anyone have any more info on these units, other than what is on the website?
How are you managing residue on your farm?