AMCO’s guide to hitching and operating a ditcher
With spring (and spring rain) on the way, now is the perfect time to brush up on correctly hitching and operating AMCO’s Vertical and Offset Rotary Ditchers. Known for their toughness and reliability, our ditchers efficiently clean roadside ditches and direct water away from crops.
To help you use your AMCO Vertical or Offset Rotary Ditcher to its full potential, we have put together this short guide to hitching and operating these industry best-sellers.
HITCHING THE DITCHER
CAUTION: If you notice that parts of the ditcher need to be lubricated or repaired before operation, disengage the tractor’s PTO and wait for the cutter head and cutting blades to come to a complete stop. Then, slowly lower the ditcher until the skid shoe touches the ground. Before dismounting, shut off the engine, set the parking brake, and remove the key.
Tip: Use the ditcher skid shoe to control the depth of your ditch.
OPERATING THE DITCHER
When hitched and operated correctly, AMCO’s Vertical and Offset Rotary Ditches deliver better ditch-clearing performance and durability. For more instructions on using and taking care of your AMCO Ditcher, review the operating manual or contact an AMCO tough tillage expert.
Visit the Vertical and Offset Rotary Ditchers page on our website to learn more about AMCO’s industry-leading tools.
Did You Know? For the best performance, operate your ditcher at 2.5-5 miles per. Ground speed will vary depending on the soil type, especially in extremely rocky conditions. A good rule of thumb for all conditions is the slower the ground speed, the better the ditcher will perform.
Whether you’re managing residue, working a seedbed, or prepping for the next crop rotation, a properly set disc is crucial. By taking a little extra time to check your disc, you can ensure you make fewer trips to the field, reduce the risk of erosion, and lay the level groundwork for a successful crop.
To help you reap the benefits of a properly set disc, AMCO has put together this guide to setting our disc harrows.
STEP ONE: PREPPING THE DISC
Before making any adjustments, make sure the tractor is in park and the key is removed. Use extreme caution when performing the following steps. Never put yourself between pinching points.
To make sure the disc is correctly attached to the tractor, check that you have:
Once you’ve finished prepping the disc, put it in a travel position and move it to level ground where you can continue with the next steps.
STEP TWO: WING LEVELING
If you are using a folding disc like AMCO’s F15 Double Offset Tandem Disc Harrow, the next step is to level the wings so the blades cut at an even depth across the unit. This step is especially important if you are using a disc with differently sized tires on the wings and the center section, which can cause uneven cutting.
Start by raising and lowering the disc and folding it for four cycles to purge any air in the lines and make sure the phasing cylinders are in sync. Next, with the disc still in transport position, use the rockshaft height adjustment to level the wings. The gap between the blade and the ground should measure the same across the disc.
Did you know?
STEP THREE: SET FRONT AND REAR GANGS
Whether you’re using a 3-point disc (LTF, LOF, Wicked Warrior) or a pull-type harrow (F15, F17, D41, F41-42, J41-44, G2), it is important to correctly set the front and rear gangs for a smooth finish. As a general rule, set the front blades to cut approximately ¾” deeper than the rear. Shallow cuts will cause buildup in the middle (sometimes known as “watermelon rows”). Cutting too deeply on the front will cause the outer edge to leave a berm. Results will vary at different speeds.
STEP FOUR: SET TILLAGE DEPTH
Tillage depth will depend on your crop, soil conditions, and speed. As a general rule, the depth is 25% of the blade diameter in normal operating conditions.
AMCO discs come standard with mechanical depth controls. To begin, raise the wheels and engage the blades in the ground at the desired cutting depth. Set the depth controls to guarantee each cut is the same depth.
If the disc is equipped with front gauge wheels, set them to the same height as the rear tires. This will keep the disc from cutting too deeply on the edges in uneven areas.
Make a short pass (approximately 30 yards) at normal operating speed and then stop. Leave the blades in the ground, dig behind the center blades of the front and rear gang, and measure the depth of the blade furrow. Make adjustments and repeat until the front and rear gangs are cutting at desired depths.
STEP FIVE: FINAL CHECKS
If the disc is properly adjusted, you should see an even mixture of soil and residue, a level seedbed floor, and a level soil surface. If there are ridges, carefully repeat the above steps. A smooth finish indicates that the disc is ready for use.
Taking the time to properly adjust your disc will set you up for a successful planting season. For more specific instructions on how to set your disc model, review the operating manual or contact an AMCO tough tillage expert.
With harvest over, it’s time to start looking to next year’s planting season, and that means terrace construction.
Terracing is a great way to conserve water and soil and prevent erosion, especially for growers who live in regions with heavy precipitation. But before you dive in and start building your terraces this spring, you might want a quick refresher on terrace construction. To help you out, AMCO has created this guide to narrow-base terrace construction with our exclusive Terracing Plow.
PHASE 1: BREAKING GROUND
Begin shaping your terrace by making one or two passes along the terrace centerline. Make these passes 4 to 6 inches deep, with both gangs set at 10 to 11 inches on the tilt indicators.
Tip: You’ll get the best results if you keep your tractor speed at 5 miles per hour or above. Faster speeds boost the upward and inward movement of soil on the terrace, reducing construction time.
PHASE 2: MOVING SOIL
After you’ve broken ground, use one gang to move soil from the areas on each side of the terrace into its base. You can do this by lowering the right-hand gang and operating the left-hand rear tractor tire just to the right of the terrace’s centerline. The gang should extend 4 to 6 feet beyond the furrow made by the outside disc blade on the previous pass. For this step, set the tilt indicator to 11 or 12 inches.
Repeat this step 2 or 3 times on both sides of the terrace. You’ll know you’re ready to move on when the soil has been worked inward enough so that the tractor is almost centered on the terrace.
Tip: To prevent one gang from taking more wear than the other, occasionally flip directions and use the left-hand gang to move soil.
PHASE THREE: KEEP MOVING AND SHAPING
Set both gangs at 12 or 13 inches on the tilt indicators. Make several passes, increasing the gang tilt by about 1 to 1½ inches on each pass. Continue to build and shape the terrace until you reach the desired height. Then make one more pass with the tilt set at 15 inches to smooth the side slopes and “crown off” the terrace.
Tip: Tilt the gangs so that all the blades are moving soil. If only one end of the gangs is moving soil, increase or decrease the tilt cutting is even.
PHASE FOUR: PREPARE FOR CROPPING AND EROSION CONTROL
Even after the terrace is built, you’ll probably have to make a few more adjustments with your Terracing Plow. One thing you may have to do is smooth and broaden the terrace channel and back slope furrow for cropping. You can do this with a disc harrow or another type of equipment.
Investing time in quality terrace construction helps ensure a successful planting and growing season. If you have any questions about terracing or about the AMCO Terracing Plow, our tough tillage experts are happy to help!
AMCO TERRACING PLOW
When building a terrace, it’s essential that you use durable, high-quality equipment that’s up to the job. AMCO is the only company that offers a plow specifically designed for terracing. Capable of building 1,000 feet of terraces or more per hour, the AMCO Terracing Plow is significantly faster than using a bulldozer or other types of heavy construction equipment. It easily fits with your equipment and can be operated by a single driver, saving you time and money. The AMCO Terracing Plow also works within Soil Conservation Service (SCS) specifications.
AMCO’s Terracing Plow can handle both narrow-base and broad-base terrace construction. It builds and packs the terrace with multiple trips through the field. In addition to building new terraces, the AMCO Terracing Plow tool can easily refurbish older terraces.
Visit our Terracing Plow page for more features and for photos of our plow in action.
Did you know?
AMCO Terracing Plows can also be used for narrow-base and broad-base terrace construction.
Clearing a new food plot? AMCO disc harrows power through
With summer well underway, hunters across the country are turning their attention towards food plots. They’ll need the perfect disc to ready their food plots for the fall hunting season. Whether it’s deer, turkey, or some other game, a properly prepared food plot is crucial, and AMCO’s three-point disc harrows can handle the job.
Leading the way for larger food plot maintenance are AMCO’s LTF Lift Double Offset Harrow and LOF Lift Offset Harrow. If you’re breaking ground for the first time, these discs can power through the job in one pass. Just ask Jim Wasko of North Carolina. Jim was able to convert four acres of his de-forested land into a food plot using his 9’ AMCO LOF-2224 Offset Disc Harrow, weighing in at 2,272 lbs., behind his 105 HP tractor. After hours of use in tough conditions, the gang bolts were still tight and there were no indications of damage. Jim was very pleased with the disc, stating, “If you want to buy something and feel like you spent your hard-earned money worthwhile, AMCO is the brand for you.”
One reason the LOF clears land with ease is its standard spring Shock Absorber Bearing Risers. They dramatically relieve shock when the disc blades encounter obstacles in the ground, and it’s a feature you won’t find on many comparable discs on the market.
Spring-loaded Shock Absorber Bearing Risers are also standard on the LTF. To save time, the LTF also offers an optional broadcast seeder with bracket and dragboard kit to plant and cover your seeds. Optional feathering blades will level the ground one step further.
AMCO’s Disc Harrows are low-maintenance, efficient, and extremely durable. They are designed to pull out of the shed and go straight to work year after year—just grease up the Protect-O-Shield® Bearings, and you’re ready to break ground. These discs are powerful enough that the gangs won’t need to be set in the most aggressive position to be effective in typical soil conditions. This gives operators more control in high-moisture soil conditions than they can get with smaller discs on which gang angle settings are likely maxed out.
While cheaper, smaller discs can’t take the abuse of repeated passes each year to clear ground, the LOF and LTF make the case that an investment in a larger disc harrow will offer a great return and make yearly food plot preparation less stressful.
Not ready for the LTF or LOF just yet? For those with smaller hunting plots or gardens, the Wicked Warrior™ tandem utility disc was built with the hobbyist and recreational landowner in mind.
Tips for food plot preparation
Even with the right disc, food plot maintenance can be tricky, especially when trying to establish a new plot. To help you maximize your plot’s success, here are a few tips:
AMCO is proud to provide the tough tillage tools you need to prepare a successful food plot. To learn more about the LTF, LOF, and Wicked Warrior, call 800-748-9022 or email email@example.com. More information on AMCO’s full product lineup can be found at www.amcomfg.com.
Many growers think changing out the lower cutter head bearing on AMCO’s drainage Ditchers is a huge hassle. But if you have an hour of time and some basic tools, you can do it yourself—without removing the drive chain and sprocket.
Below is an overview of how to change the lower cutter head bearing on AMCO’s Vertical and Offset Rotary Ditchers (download printable instructions here). For a complete video tutorial, watch Marketing Manager Luke Andries change the lower cutter head bearing on an AMCO drainage Ditcher here.
Before each step, make sure your work area is safe and Ditcher is secure, to avoid injury. Always wear your personal protective equipment.
1. Remove the driveline.
2. Loosen the jam nut of the idler tension screw using a ¾″ box-end wrench. Remove the tension screw.
3. Remove all cutter head bolts with a 11/8″ socket. Move the head out of the way.
4. Remove the jam nuts on the front and rear collar with a 7/32″ socket-style Allen wrench.
5. Remove the drain plug and drain all fluids with a 5/16″ socket-style Allen wrench. Once the oil is drained, remove all bolts, and the plate should fall off.
6. Remove the bottom cover. Remove the front and rear flange bolts with a ¾″ socket. Also remove the o-rings and remove the back skid for easier access.
7. Safely place the Ditcher on its back for easy access to the bottom sprocket. Remove the two set screws holding the bottom sprocket in place. This will allow the sprocket to slide freely on shaft. Stand the ditcher upright.
8. Use a punch and hammer to hit the hole on the collar—this will free up the collar.
9. Ensure the set screw is set flat to allow bearing to slide over. Take a file or sandpaper to that spot before you slide off the bearing. It should be smooth to the touch.
10. Use the punch to hit directly on the shaft, until the shaft is driven through the rear bearing and collar, and the rear bearing falls off. Pull out the shaft from the front.
11. Slide the front bearing off. Remove snap ring that holds the bearing in place. The collar and bearing interlock together, and there is a tool mark where the collar locked the bearing into place. Hit the punch in the opposite direction in of the tool mark.
12. Once it is loose, secure the locking collar in a vise. Use hammer to tap collar down and off the shaft.
13. On the shaft, there are two small o-rings that need to be replaced—remove o-rings. Make sure you are in a contaminant-free zone so no dirt/grit gets on shaft when you start replacing new parts.
14. Place new flange on shaft. Place new o-ring on shaft.
15. Slide the new bearing onto the shaft with the grooved side of the bearing face down. You may have to tap down with a small hammer until it is flush with the side of the collar. Be careful not to damage the bearing.
16. Use the hammer to tap the punch in the tool mark and lock the bearing in place.
17. Replace the set screw in collar with a 7/32″ Allen wrench.
18. With the bearing, flange, and lock collar in place, slide the snap ring back down with the large snap ring pliers. Be careful not to scar the shaft. You might have to tap it with a small hammer to get it down into the groove above the bearing.
19. Slide the o-ring over the shaft (PT#11329).
20. Position the keyway on the sprocket (inside the Ditcher) to face straight up, so you don’t have to guess which direction the keyway on the shaft should face. Slide the shaft back into the ditcher.
21. Now you’re ready to put the seal in place. Slide the o-ring over the bearing, then take the flange and make sure it is a good fit over the o-ring. Put the nuts back on—hand tighten, so there is still some play in the back while you are putting the new rear bearing on.
22. Move to the back of the Ditcher. Scrape off raised surfaces left over from the old gasket, and wipe down to remove contaminants. This will create a good seal for the new gasket.
23. Place the new o-ring over the shaft and slide it around in the screw. Slide the new gasket over the bolts in the direction the machine punched the bolt holes.
24. Place the collar flange over the bolts. Slide the bearing and collar over the shaft with the cutout grooves towards the back. Use your other hand on the front to steady the shaft.
25. Take the other new large o-ring and place it all the way around the Ditcher bearing. Slide on the flange and hand-tighten the nuts.
26. Tighten the front flange bolts, then tighten the back with a ¾″ socket.
27. Place the locking collar on the shaft, twist to lock it in, then hit down on the keyhole with the punch to tighten the lock. Tighten the set screw with a 7/32″ Allen wrench.
28. To set the sprocket, lay the ditcher on its back again. The sprocket should be completely to the back of the Ditcher. Rotate the shaft until you find your keyway, and make sure the keyway is pushed down not quite level to the sprocket.
29. The keyway takes two set screws (to ensure main locking set screw does not back out), and one single set screw on the side of the shaft. Replace the set screws and tighten with a ¼″ Allen wrench.
30. Wipe down the bottom of the Ditcher to remove contaminants. Bolt on the new gasket. Hand tighten first, then tighten completely.
31. Before raising the Ditcher, reattach the cutter head. Hand tighten the bolts, stand the Ditcher upright, then tighten the bolts completely.
32. Reattach the rear skid plate.
33. Reinstall the idler screw. You’ll feel it starting to lift the idler sprocket back into place. Tighten with a crescent wrench until it is snug, but not too tight. Replace the jam nut.
34. Replace the oil.
Your Ditcher is ready for use!