Minn-Dak Growers Achieve Objective at Minimal Cost
There’s only one thing better than an idea that works effectively when put into action — and that’s an effective idea whose cost is minimal.
Tim and Tony Hought accomplished
that enviable objective several years ago when they were looking for a way to help protect their emerging sugarbeets from strong early spring winds on their west central Minnesota farm. “In our ground, we need to leave lumps out there, or we blow,” Tim affirms.
The Houghts, who farm near Foxhome, Minn., with their father, John, came up with a simple yet highly effective solution. They took a bunch of old press drill disks, welded small perpendicular flanges on them, and mounted the modified disks on shanks — with hubs and bearings intact — for installation on their planter. The result? Homemade “stingers” that rough up enough soil to help blunt strong winds and thus guard those young beets. “We don’t get the soil lumps as large as we would with a ripper,” Tony relates, “but it’s still enough.”
Prior to developing their stingers several years ago, the Houghts had been utilizing standard S-tine rippers on their cultivator (in the pre-Roundup Ready® beet days) to work corn stalks and barley cover crop residue. On their planter, they mounted S-tine rippers to clean between the 22-inch rows. But they experienced a fair amount of plugging when planting on old corn ground or in other heavier-residue conditions. Plus, they were putting the ripper shanks on the planter in fields with lower residue; then taking them off again when seeding fields with higher residue. (They do still run the rippers in their tractor tracks and in the planter’s wheel tracks, however, to loosen that compacted soil.)
Tony (left) and Tim Hought.
The homemade stingers stay on the planter permanently, so the sole required labor comes when they have to replace one (typically only after multiple seasons of use). Occasionally, a corn root ball may get stuck between the stinger shank and a wide-flange disk, and the disk will slide along rather than roll; but that’s rare. “If it does happen, we just need to lift up, and by that time it typically drops off, and away you go again,” Tim says.
The Houghts did experiment a bit at first with the width of the flanges. Their initial sets were about ¾-inch wide; but they did not provide enough soil disturbance. So they made another group whose flanges were around one inch in diameter; then a third of about 1.5 inches in width. The widest ones barely cleared the shank and tended to be a little too aggressive, in their view; so now they typically employ the mid-width ones. With the flanges being welded on both sides of the flat disk, the worked soil zone for each disk thus is two-plus inches.
“Their main purpose is just to rough up the soil in the spring so the field doesn’t blow,” Tony reiterates. “We can go on ground where there isn’t hardly any trash, and it still leaves enough roughed to not blow. Then we can go into another place where there’s heavy corn residue — but it won’t plug. So it works out well in both situations.
“Plus, we’re not taking them off or adjusting them all the time.”
Mike Metzger, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative research agronomist and the Houghts’ former agriculturist, agrees that their homemade stingers provide an effective, simple solution to a sometimes-vexing issue. “What makes them so attractive is that they can be used on fields with large amounts of residue and/or trash without plugging, whereas most other growers would have to flip the stingers up or take them completely off to avoid this nuisance,” Metzger concurs. “With the increased acreage of sugarbeets following corn [in the Minn-Dak operations area] in recent years, this type of ‘recycling program’ really makes a lot of sense.” — Don Lilleboe