Photo: Don Lilleboe
When the Bierlein brothers — Warren and Brian — decided to trade for a wider row-crop planter, they simultaneously decided to switch from their traditional 28-inch sugarbeet rows over to 22s. So this past spring, instead of planting their beets and other row crops with an 18-row unit, they did so with a 58-foot-wide Bauer-built John Deere DB58 that allowed them to seed 32 (22-inch) rows at a crack.
But the changeover did bring along a complication. How would the Vassar, Mich., growers be able to utilize their preferred tractor — a John Deere 9400T Series track unit — to plant the narrow-row beets? The tractor had not been suited for 28-inch rows due to its 30-inch-wide tracks. So how could it be workable in 22s?
“We wanted to plant with a track tractor to eliminate compaction,” Warren relates. “But we didn’t want to buy an 8000 Series row-crop tractor; we wanted to utilize the 9400 Series that we already had.”
The solution? How about cutting a groove down the middle of the track under which the crop row could fit? “I measured the tractor and found that the center of the belt was about 1.5 inches off the center” of 22-inch beet rows, Warren recounts.
The next order of business was a call to D & S Tires in Richmond, Ind. Could they gouge out a groove along the belt center so that the track lugs would not compress the crop row beneath it?
Tammy Scholz, manager of the D & S Richmond facility, told Bierlein they’d never had a request like that — but yes, why not? So he hauled the tracks down to Richmond, where D & S cut a groove nine inches wide. The ground-out portion of the lugs ended up being flush with the belt.
The results were exactly what the Bierleins had hoped for. The tractor weight remained on the lugs on either side of the groove, “but right in the center, there was no weight pressing down,” Warren says.
The proof was in the pudding, as the Bierleins’ 2010 sugarbeet plant stands and crop growth were excellent. They changed back to “regular” tracks on the 9400 for fall tillage duties, but you can bet those groovy tracks will be back on in time for the 2011 spring planting season. — Don Lilleboe