Zane Erickson, a farm equipment dealer and strip-till farmer, needed an implement to close/prepare the seedbed following tiling.
He tiles about a quarter (160 acres) of farmland annually.
The past five years, he’s used a Blu-Jet by Unverferth TrenchMaster drainage tile trench closer.
He also sells them and other Blu-Jet products at North Star Ag of Tower City, N.D., along with three dozen other short line equipment brands.
Originally developed by Thurston Manufacturing Company, Unverferth purchased the Blu-Jet product line three years ago.
There are two track closer models. The TrackMaster II is designed to smooth out pivot irrigator wheel tracks. It is 60 inches wide and features six 22-inch concave discs.
The TrenchMaster is what Erickson uses to close tile trenches and level the soil, with minimal soil disturbance. The working width is 90 inches and features a four-bar frame and eight 22-inch concave discs.
A manually-adjusted or hydraulically-controlled guide cone (optional on TrenchMaster) controls the disc depth. Both models feature a V disc design to fill and level soil. The LevelPro with coil roller (rolling basket) is an optional leveling and finishing tool.
“The main thing with the TrenchMaster is to get the tractor wide enough to go over the trench,” Erickson said. He tried to run the three-point hitch implement using a John Deere 4440 without duals that was set at 60 inches (5 feet), but that was too narrow.
“You can use any front wheel assist or the one we have is an 8R John Deere that doesn’t take a ton of power,” he said. In general, any front wheel assist with 65+ hp and wide wheel spacing will do.
“Typically, what we’ll do is disc it twice, depending on how much time we have,” he said. “In the spring, depending on what it looks like, I may disc it again. It seems like the more time you deal with it right away, you’ll thank yourself for that going forward.”
People are also reading…
A farmer may think the trench will just mellow through the winter, but that’s not always the case, especially in minimal-till situations. Without some type of discing, field conditions can be difficult to traverse with the tractor and planter, the sprayer, and the combine.
It can also be hard on the tractor driver’s back.
In addition, the crop yields could be hurt on the uneven soil ridges or dips.
Sometimes the soil settles deeper into the trench during winter. Erickson may leave a small berm of soil to spread out over the previous year’s trench path in the spring.
Once the trenches are leveled out, the Erickson crew again uses GPS to put in the strip-till lines for judicious fertilizer use.
The TrenchMaster is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used for smoothing out irrigator pivot ruts or ridges, too, he suggested.
“You could use the TrenchMaster for irrigation,” he said. “I would argue that the TrenchMaster is better for the pivot track because it moves more soil. It’s going to fill in deep pivot ruts better.”
The Blu-Jet by Unverferth TrackMaster has a starting MSRP of $7,200, while the TrenchMaster is $9,000-$10,000, according to company officials.
At that price, some farmers will buy their own tile closer, Erickson said. He added that it retains about 70 percent of its value at trade in.
Farmers also use the TrenchMaster to fix truck, tractor, or combine ruts following wet growing seasons. If there are many ruts across the field, the TrenchMaster isn’t the right solution, he said. If there are just some areas that need a little help, this small implement can do the job.
One of the nice features about the TrenchMaster is the potential to use smaller equipment to finish up the tiling job at one farm, while the main tile plow is moved on to the next farm for tiling.
“You can complete the whole quarter in under a day,” Erickson concluded.