Tough Tillage Update

5 Keys Factors for Getting the Perfect Tillage Depth

Disc cutting depth has a major impact on overall crop yield. Cutting too shallow may lead to weak root systems, varying soil temperatures, and uneven emergence. Cutting too deeply puts unnecessary strain on equipment.

But setting and maintaining the ideal cutting depth is a delicate balance. To help you master it, AMCO has created this list of five key factors you need to consider while setting up and operating your disc.

Blade Diameter

LOF-Front-Rear-GangWhen setting your disc’s tillage depth, the first thing to consider is blade diameter. Over the years, AMCO’s tough tillage experts have found that the ideal cutting depth in normal operating conditions is approximately 25% of the blade diameter. For example, for a 32″ blade, the cutting depth is about 8″. But for a 26″ blade, the cutting depth is about 6.5″.

Once you’ve calculated optimal tillage depth, set your disc to that depth using the depth controls.

Weight per Blade

While it may be tempting to jump right into the field after setting the tillage depth, other factors must be taken into consideration. For example, the more weight a blade carries, the deeper it will cut—no matter the diameter.

Weight per blade is calculated by dividing the weight of the disc by the number of blades. Make a short test pass in an area similar to where you’ll be tilling and measure the depth of the blade furrow. If the furrow is deeper than one quarter of the blade diameter, there is too much weight on the blade. Relieve the pressure by reducing the tillage depth using the depth controls. If it’s too shallow, increase the pressure by increasing the tillage depth.

Blade Angle

Like weight per blade, blade angle effects tillage depth. Specifically, setting the blades at a sharp angle increases blade penetration, while a shallow angle decreases penetration.

As you make adjustments to factor in weight per blade, also consider adjusting the blade angle. Keep making adjustments and performing test passes until the disc furrow measures one quarter of the blade diameter.

LOF-Gang-Angle-Corner

Blade angle can have a significant impact on tillage depth. Whether you are using AMCO’s LOF Lift Offset Harrow (pictured) or another unit, make sure to check the angle of your blades and make adjustments as needed using the gang angle.

Speed

Even if your disc is locked in to all the right settings, field and operating conditions can impact your disc’s cutting depth. For example, operating a disc too fast or too slow prevents it from penetrating the soil at the correct depth. The disc won’t be able to effectively break up and toss the soil, which leads to shallow cuts.

In most conditions, the optimal operating speed is approximately 4–6 miles per hour. In sandier soils, discs can be operated up to 8 miles per hour. If you are unsure what the right speed is for your soil conditions, make a few test passes at different speeds and measure the furrow depth.

Soil Conditions

Like speed, soil conditions can have a major effect on tillage depth. In sandy soil, the disc may sink and cause the blades to cut too deeply. Tough, chunky “gumbo” soil might keep your disc from getting the correct penetration. If that’s the case, extra passes might be required.

As you make test passes during the set-up phase, you should get a good feel for the soil condition you’ll be working in, and you can make the proper adjustments. Just make sure to keep an eye out for changing soil conditions as you till–if you sense a change, check the depth of your furrows and make adjustments if necessary.

 

Getting your disc to cut at the correct depth often requires set-up time, but it’s well worth it when you achieve good yields and a return on your investment. To learn more about setting and operating your disc at the right tillage depth, contact our tough tillage experts today.

 

Did You Know? A disc will incorporate residue into the ground roughly as deep as half the cutting depth. To break dirt clods most effectively, your second pass through the field should not be on the same angle as the first pass. Instead, enter the field anywhere from 30° to 90° off the angle of the first pass; this will help reduce streaks in the residue and provide a smoother soil finish.

 

Build the perfect levee in five steps

levee-plow

This month, rice-planting season is in full swing across the United States.

Rice is unique because of the irrigated conditions it’s grown in. For your rice to thrive, you need a well-built levee that produces just the right controlled flooding environment. To help you maximize the success of your rice crop, AMCO has created this guide to building quality levees with our revolutionary levee plow lineup, which includes the hydraulically controlled LF6 and LJ6 and manually controlled MLF6 and MLJ6.

STEP ONE: HITCH AND PREPARE FOR TRANSPORT

Before using your AMCO Levee Plow, double-check that all nuts and bolts are properly tightened and all cotter pins are spread. Make sure the plow has been lubricated.

AMCO Levee Plows are designed to fit category II and III three-point hitches and quick couplers. To hitch the plow to your tractor, simply pin it to the appropriate holes using the spacers provided.

The levee plow comes with standard adjustable parking stands. For transport or field work, the stands should be raised and pinned. For unhitching and storage, the stands should always be lowered to prevent tip-overs.

Caution – After parking the levee plow, always check to make sure it can’t be accidentally overturned.

STEP TWO: ADJUST GANG ANGLES

levee-plow-adjustable-gang

Move gangs forward or back to control the cutting angle.

The gangs may be set at any angle from 18-28 degrees. Under normal operating conditions, the gangs should be set somewhere between these two extremes for the best results. A greater cutting angle will move the soil further and improve penetration. A lesser angle will reduce the number of large clods and the amount of “balling up” the plow may experience in wet conditions. To decrease the gang angle, remove the angle-adjusting pins, located underneath the ends of the main frame. Then, shift the gangs forward and replace the pins at the desired setting. Before cutting, make sure both gangs are pinned off at the same location. To increase the gang angle, move the gangs toward the rear and re-pin.

STEP THREE: ADJUST CUTTING WIDTH

Use the ratchet jack on the side links to adjust the plow’s overall cutting width. For 8-blade plows, use the lower mounting lugs; for 10-blade plows, use the upper mounting lugs.

STEP FOUR: ADJUST GANG TILT

On the MLF6 and MLJ6, the gang tilt is adjusted manually. The LF6 and LJ6 are equipped with on-the-go tilt adjustment, so both hydraulic gangs can be simultaneously tilted from the tractor seat. This feature also allows the operator to reduce the overall number of passes, saving time and fuel. A tilt indicator that displays hydraulic cylinder stroke is located on the right-hand gang of the LF6 and LJ6, letting you know how much the gangs are tilted.

Levee-plow-multipliable-blades

Different blade configurations are available to achieve desired levee type.

STEP FIVE: CONSTRUCT THE LEVEE

The number of passes required to build a levee depends on the soil condition and the desired depth. Under normal operating conditions, as a general rule, a levee can be constructed in three passes. While there are many methods of constructing a levee, below we have laid out the basic steps of the most common method.

When constructing your levee:

  • Limit the depth of the cut on the first pass to avoid plowing up large clods. To prevent water seepage, the core of the levee should be made up of fine soil particles.
  • If possible, allow time for the soil to dry between passes. Large clods are more readily pulverized in dry soil, which in turn makes the seedbed less porous and a better environment for growing rice.
  • During the first pass, the two middle blades will do most of the work. Limiting gang tilt and primarily using the middle blades on subsequent passes will build a steep-sloped levee with a shallow borrow furrow on the sides.

Tip – A “borrow furrow” is formed when nearby soil is used, or “borrowed”, to build the levee. A borrow furrow can help with draining the rice field. If that is not desirable for your operation, use the optional feathering blade kit to reduce the effects of a steep borrow furrow.

  • Pack the center of the levee with one or two passes of the tractor wheels to provide an impervious core before making the final pass.
  • Firm and shape the levee during the final pass.

Building a high-quality levee helps ensure a successful rice crop. If you have any questions about levee building or about AMCO’s Levee Plow lineup, contact our tough tillage experts today.

Did you know? Both our Manual and Hydraulic Levee Plows are designed with reversible gangs, giving them the ability to both build up and tear down levees.

levee-plow-soil-guide

Ditcher cheat sheet

vertical-ditcher

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

  1. Before backing the tractor in front of the ditcher, check the PTO shaft travel. It should slide forward freely without bottoming out.
  2. Lubricate the PTO shaft.
  3. Check the shearbolt.
  4. Make sure the tractor drawbar is moved to one side, is retracted, or is removed. Do not leave the drawbar in the middle of the tractor. This may cause damage to the PTO shaft.
  5. AMCO Ditchers will fit Category II and III 3-point hitches or Category II couplers. Connect the three tractor lift links to the ditcher with the connecting pins. The ditcher PTO shaft should be connected to the tractor PTO shaft by sliding the ditcher shaft forward until the quick disconnect pin slips into the groove on the tractor shaft. Use caution; the universal drive shaft could slip off the tractor PTO if the quick disconnect pin isn’t securely connected.
  6. Pin the parking stands in the raised position. Slowly raise and lower the ditcher to check its drive shaft length. At least 6″ of the shaft should be engaged in the tubular portion of the universal shaft drive. Check the shaft drive in the fully retracted position to make sure it will turn freely. Also check the drive shaft to make sure it won’t hit the tractor drawbar.
  7. Extend or retract the tractor’s top lift link until the chain case is vertical when lowered to the normal operating position. Also make sure the universal drive shaft has an equal offset in each joint.

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.


 

skid-shoe

Concave skid shoe with quickadjust ratchet gives better tracking for a more uniform ditch. Standard on all models.

OPERATING THE DITCHER

  1. Before engaging the PTO, make sure the cutter head and cutting blades aren’t making contact with the soil.
  2. To start the ditcher, throttle the tractor engine speed to 250 RPMs. Then lower the ditcher until it rests slightly above the ground and engage the tractor PTO.
  3. After the cutter head has begun to rotate, set the engine speed to its designated RPM rating. Never operate the ditcher above its RPM rating; excessive PTO speed can cause personal injury and damage the equipment.
  4. If available, use the float position on the tractor’s 3-point lift. This feature will allow the skid shoe to control the depth of the cut.
  5. Slowly move the tractor forward while lowering the ditcher until it reaches the desired working depth. Base forward speed and depth on the soil condition.
  6. Raise the ditcher to clear the soil surface before making sharp turns or backing up. Never raise the ditcher to maximum height with the PTO engaged.

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.


Related material
Learn how to change an AMCO Ditcher bearing in under an hour without removing the chain and sprocket in this exclusive video.

Setting a disc? Do it right in five easy steps

F15

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:

  • Installed the drawbar, pin, and lock pin
  • Removed and stored the jack
  • Installed the safety chain
  • Connected all hydraulic hoses and lighting connectors
  • Checked all tire pressures
  • Lubricated all grease points

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?

The gangs of AMCO’s F15, F17, and LTF Double Offset Tandem Disc Harrows overlap, ensuring you get 100% tillage all the way across the disc.


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

depth-gauge-control-arm

AMCO’s standard mechanical depth controls ensure an even cutting 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.

Visit our website’s Disc Harrow, 3-Point Disc/Lift Harrow, and Wheel Offset Harrow pages to learn more about AMCO’s industry-leading disc harrow lineup.

Terrace construction: How to do the job right

A diagram of terrace construction

A diagram of terrace construction

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.

TJ3PHASE 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!


Terracing-plow

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.

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