Planter Accessory Knocks Out Compaction

March 7, 2014 08:37 PM
Planter Accessory Knocks Out Compaction

Planter accessory knocks out compaction problems with tine tillage

This spring, consider letting your planter dig in its heels a little. That’s the advice of a recent Iowa State University (ISU) graduate whose product aims to cut into pinch-row compaction.

"The overall consensus is that just the weight of the planter tires and tractor tires combined can cause anywhere from 10 bu. to upward of 30 bu. loss in those rows," says Colin Hurd, inventor of the TrackTill. "You’re compacting the soil to the point where the roots aren’t able to develop like they should."

The product yielded 10 bu. per acre that otherwise would have been lost to compaction for Lowell Garrett, who grows mostly corn on corn northwest of Des Moines, Iowa.

"We already have an air-inflation system that deflates all the tires, but we wanted to see if TrackTill could take it a little bit farther," explains Garrett, who runs a 48-row John Deere DB120 planter on 30" spacings.

ISU research found that TrackTill resulted in an increase of 8.12 bu. per acre in center rows, a 6.5% increase in plant height and an average of 16.5% less compaction resistance.

Wheel tag-along. Each TrackTill unit is a self-contained tine-tillage system that mounts behind the four transport wheels of a planter. The units currently fit on machines with 30" spacings, although Hurd will also be testing a narrow-row spacing model to have available in spring 2015.

Down pressure is adjustable and can be applied using hydraulics or an air-based system. Each unit typically requires about 800 lb. of down pressure, meaning the units offset about 3,200 lb. of planter weight, Hurd explains.

The 10" tines roll through the field performing vertical tillage by fracturing and lifting soil as they go. That helps break up much of the pinch-row compaction, which can affect soil in a range from 3" to 2'. The tines create pockets of air beneath the soil surface making room for roots to breathe and improving access to air and nutrients.

The TrackTill performs better at high velocities, Hurd says, meaning that the soil can be fractured farther than the tines can reach. "The faster they enter the ground, the more fracturing force they carry," he explains. "In a lot of cases when people use tine tillage, they recommend you travel 8 to 10 mph through the field."

Design considerations. Hurd identified pinch-row compaction as a problem in 2011 during an internship. Through the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative, an endowed program at ISU, he developed and tested his idea.

Hurd opted for a tine-based system rather than subsoiling shanks because tines do better in wet conditions. While shanks can increase the bulk density of the soil and create additional compaction, tines help preserve soil structure. Additionally, tines create less hardpan than shanks.

Garrett says the system took about two hours to install and will easily pay for itself in less than a year. "I never had any extra maintenance with them," he says. "You let them down and go."  

Click here to visit inventor Colin Hurd’s website.

You can email Nate Birt at

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