Dull discs wallop dirt, improve soil

The Kelly Diamond Disc Chain Harrows employ four long disc-chains around the diamond shaped perimeter plus two smaller disc-chains that run in the centre section of the frame. The radical angle of the tiny dull discs wallops and levels the soil.

BRANDON — Farmers are interested in tillage equipment again as they look to attack crop residue and work the soil.

“There’s really not much choice for a lot of us,” says Aaron Yeager, Canadian importer of the Kelly Diamond Disc Chain Harrows from Australia.

He has sold 125 units to prairie farmers in three years.

Yeager said producers worked hard for years to preserve residue and organic matter, but it isn’t working for them the way they thought it would.

“We’ve been zero tilling on our farm for quite a while now, so we have a significant buildup of straw on the surface, just like most everybody else,” he said.

“That residue is no longer our friend. It insulates the soil. It prevents heat from getting into the ground in the spring. The residue breaks down, but those nutrients aren’t getting into the soil. So we have a couple of problems on our hands.”

He said the Kelly mixes the decomposing residue with what he calls “real dirt” in the top 1.25 inches. This mixing is supposed to promote better microbial action in the soil and puts the nutrients to work.

“It also exposes enough black soil to attract sunlight,” he said.

“This warms the soil quite a lot and helps dry just the top surface. We get on the land seven to 10 days quicker since we started using the Kelly. The other thing it does for us in the spring is kill weeds. We often get a good enough weed kill that we can skip the spring burn-off. Everybody knows that saves you money, but it also helps break the glyphosate resistance cycle.”

Yeager said that in a wet spring, he’s often able to seed one day after running the Kelly across a field.

He has customers who have broadcast seed in significantly wet years and then used their Kelly to incorporate the seed.

In a dry spring, he tightens up the time frame and brings the drill in about an hour after the Kelly leaves a field.

He said the machine runs shallow: just enough to disturb the residue and the top bit of soil but not enough to disturb the moist soil below.

Producers who want to use the Kelly will need enough power to run at 10 m.p.h. Yeager said the machine doesn’t perform properly if it runs slower than 8.5 m.p.h.

The edges of the discs are dull and rounded. It’s the aggressive angle that does the work, levelling out wheel ruts from the sprayer and combines.

“It isn’t intended to cut the soil. What it does is wallop the soil to even it down. A conventional harrow always leaves you with hills and valleys from the tines,” he said.

“But we go in and run fast with the Kelly and end up with a nice smooth flat surface. That means extra yield because now you get accurate uniform seeding depth right across the whole width of your drill.”

Yeager said he plans to mount a granular tank on the frame of his Kelly this spring, which will allow him to apply up to 350 pounds per acre of fertilizer while making a single pass.

The 45 foot Kelly harrow lists for $100,000, and the 62 foot model lists for $140,000.

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