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Planting Power: How We Built the World’s Best Seed Openers

Generally speaking, farmers fall into two camps when it comes to choosing seed openers for the upcoming planting season – the guy who sticks with what he knows because they work ‘well enough’, and the guy who’s on a never-ending quest for better.

If you won’t settle for ‘good enough’, then you’ve come to the right place – because at Wearparts we know from experience that all seed openers are not created equal. 

In our conversations with farmers and ag dealers, we often hear that OEM blades, in particular, don’t live up to the hype associated with their name – common problems include a high rejection rate during preseason checks or premature wear and chipping out in the field.

Over the past decade, we’ve worked with manufacturers and farmers to deliver what we confidently believe are the best seed opener assemblies on the US market.  So what makes a great seed opener – and why are Wearparts seed openers better?  Let’s take a detailed look at our bestselling blades, and find out.

What makes a superior seed opener?

Premium quality blades start with premium quality steel – and our mission to address common seed opener problems experienced by US farmers started in Europe, with world-renowned French manufacturer, Forges de Niaux. 

FDN’s famous ‘French disc’ has been developed based on more than 75 years of agricultural and engineering expertise, as well as real feedback from farmers, and they are known for their exacting standards when it comes to selecting the steel their disc blades are made from.

Patented heat treatment

One of the key USPs of the FDN seed opener – the Niaux 200 – is the company’s patented heat treatment process, which gives the blade three defined zones of hardness/flexibility.  

This breakthrough metallurgical technology came about after many years of research and testing and is the key reason Niaux blades are proven to last on average 30% longer in the field than any competing product.  Here’s how it works:

  1. The greatest heat concentration is applied near the edge of the blade, resulting in maximum hardness and wear resistance (55-58 HRC).
  1. A slightly lower heat concentration is applied to the transition area on the face of the blade, resulting in a superb balance of hardness and flexibility (50-55 HRC) that enables the blade to cope with shocks and stresses without inhibiting performance.
  1. In the center of the blade, heat concentration is lowered to reduce hardening and retain maximum flexibility (48-50 HRC), allowing the blades to bend so they can cope with extreme axial and radial loads without fracturing.

Self-sharpening seed openers

In addition to this advanced structural integrity, each blade features a longer bevel – ¾” as opposed to the standard 5/8” found on most OEM opener discs – and unique ‘self-sharpening’ technology that promotes supremely even wear even in challenging soil conditions, allowing the blade to get sharper, not duller, as it wears down.

Durable seed opener assembly

Having answered our customers’ requests for a sharper edge and a longer bevel, we turned our attention to the seed opener assembly itself.  Farmers told us they wanted a larger, more robust hub with larger rivets, and that’s what we gave them – our Maximum Duty seed opener assemblies for John Deere feature a 5mm cast housing, with heavy-duty PEER bearings and 5/16” rivets for advanced load capacity and supreme durability.

Advanced seed opener testing

The final piece of the puzzle is precision – because you can have all the features you like on a seed opener, but if it doesn’t run true, it’s not worth the steel it’s made from.  Wearparts seed openers are a cut above not just because of the advanced blade technology, or the carefully designed hub assembly, but also because we hold ourselves to the very highest standards in the industry for blade tolerances, and we test 100% of our seed openers before they leave our warehouse.

Guaranteed to run true

Our Guaranteed True® promise means our seed openers have to meet radial and axial tolerances that are typically half of that permitted by OEM manufacturers.  

Each blade must achieve a minimum of .050/1.27mm axial / .060/1.52mm radial tolerance, and our tests show that a significant percentage pass our tests with half of that to spare.

As a result, Wearparts blades have virtually no wobble or lope, which means rejections during preseason testing are kept to an absolute minimum, and blade shimming takes a fraction of the time – so farmers can get on with the real work of getting those seeds safely in the ground come spring.

Competitively priced

Our Maximum Duty seed openers have a better specification than the John Deere OEM alternative, with a proven longer wear-life and our Guaranteed True® promise – but in terms of price, they stack up favorably, delivering even more cost-effectiveness for farmers.

What farmers say about our seed openers

Longer wear-life is what sets our seed openers apart, and this is emphasized by the feedback we get from farmers – we’ve had guys tell us they weren’t even getting one season out of their OEM openers, and now they’re getting two years from their Wearparts blades.

Watch Ottawa County farmer Darren Sanders explaining to Mark Franzen why he switched to Wearparts seed openers and the difference it’s made to his farming:

We’ve also had those risk-averse guys who always play safe with OEM tell us that their farming operations have been enhanced once they realized how much more efficient our seed openers are compared to what they’d been using for years – here’s what one farmer said: “After being shown how poor the OEM blades were, I couldn’t believe I had been using them for so long.  Farmers need to know that there is a far superior product available.  Thank you for helping me make my farm better.”

Need more information?

If you’re interested in learning more about Wearparts premium quality seed openers, or you’re ready to try them for yourself, find your nearest dealer from our nationwide network – or get in touch with our team for further information.

Surviving the Holidays: A Guide for Farm Wives

Surviving the Holidays: A Guide for Farm Wives

The festive season is a challenge no matter what you do for work or what your family situation is – the ‘magic’ of the season really boils down to a whole lot of expense, hard work and planning.

But for farming families, the craziness of Christmas is exacerbated by the fact that there’s no such thing as a ‘holiday’ when there are chores to be done and animals to be fed. It’s a unique situation that’s hard to comprehend unless you’ve lived it – and nobody lives it more vividly than a farmer’s wife!

Raising kids, pitching in on the farm, perhaps holding down a job at the same time AND pulling off a joyful festive season is a tall order and then some – so with tongues firmly in cheeks, we’ve put together a guide to help farm wives survive the holidays* – read on for tips!

*Disclaimer: This guide might not actually help at all. But it’s meant to make you laugh – and laughter makes everything better!

Get him to help with the decorating

If you’re waiting for the farmer in your life to start caring about trimming the tree or creating Instagram-worthy scenes inside the house, you can forget about it right now. Your farmer guy will happily keep the wood pile stocked, the hearth aglow and the refrigerator full of home-grown produce – but anything else inside the house isn’t even on his radar.

Outdoors, however, is a different story.  A farmer’s home is his castle and he’s ALL about keeping up with the Joneses – if the Joneses have their place decked in lights and a fully decorated John Deere sitting out front.  Any external decorating that involves the use of a cherrypicker or telehandler is right up his alley (even if he complains about it, he loves it really) so pick your battles wisely.

Don’t mess with the system

Forget about waking up early to tear open your stockings – on the farm, there won’t be a gift opened until the animals are fed, the troughs checked and the chores done.  Try to mess with the system at your peril – frustrating as it can be to wait for the festivities to start until the morning farm jobs are done, it’s actually a great idea to get them out of the way early so you can relax (well, for an hour or so anyway).

The main problem with this festive farming routine is that kids can really resent having to wait until chores are done to open gifts – so a great tip is to make the work all part of the fun.  Award points for the most chores completed or the fastest to finish, and let the winning kid open the first gift.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even lay a festive treasure hunt to follow around the farm as they help with the chores.  

Drop hints early and often

If you’ve ever unwrapped a gift from your farmer husband to discover a pair of work gloves, a penknife or new rubber boots, you’ll know how important it is to spell out the difference between a necessity (something you need) and a luxury (something you want!).  Most farmers can’t tell the difference so if you have a particular gift in mind, you’re gonna have to drop some pretty hefty hints – and considering that even those might go in one ear and out the other, get tactical.

Start with his smartphone – a casual Google search now and again for that item you’ve been coveting will ensure he’s inundated with ads every time he tries to read AgWeb.  Then get the kids on side – make sure they know what to tell him when he wonders aloud what mom would like to find under the tree.  If all else fails, go straight to source.  That jewellery store he always visits in a blind panic, right at the last minute?  The sales assistant is your ally – tell her what you’d like him to choose and then start practicing your best ‘totally surprised’ face in the mirror.

How to extract him from the tractor for family dinners

The thing farmers love the most next to farming is eating – all that hard work creates an appetite.  But getting your farmer to commit to a date and time for a family event can be more challenging than pinning down a politician.  So how do you get him out of the tractor and into a chair at the head of the table?

First of all, know when to quit.  If there’s something really important coming up (or if an emergency arises at the last minute) the farm will always take priority.  Try to arrange events for times when you know things are likely to be quieter and be mindful of his daily routine for chores.

Next, give plenty of notice.  Put it on the calendar, add it to his phone, write it on the bathroom mirror in lipstick if you have to.  Remind early and often for the best chance of success.

Last but not least, make it irresistible.  Biscuits and gravy like mama used to make?  What farmer could pass that up? (Side note: If he shows up in overalls, say nothing.)

Master no-notice entertaining

Farming is one of the loneliest occupations – long hours spent in the tractor cab and working from home long before that was a thing means that farmers are often isolated from their peers, except for at key times like market days, harvest time – and Christmas!  This is the one time of year when farming families will visit with neighbors, and spend a little time talking about the challenges they’ve faced together during the year.

This is a truly wonderful aspect of the farming community – but it’s not without challenges for a farmer’s wife.  You have to make like a boy scout and BE PREPARED for unexpected visitors at any time of day.  Nobody’s expecting a Martha Steward-style buffet lunch but to make spur-of-the-moment entertaining easier, it’s worth stocking the freezer with finger foods and if you don’t already have an air fryer, understand that this piece of kitchen equipment will change your life in much the same way that a set of Wearparts seed openers will change your husband’s!

Capitalize on quality time

You don’t need us to tell you that life on the farm is relentlessly busy, often stressful and occasionally just plain hard.  It’s also filled with moments of pure joy, gratitude for a life on the land, and great satisfaction.  

On the farm, the festive season may not look like a Hallmark card – and that’s OK.  What’s important is to enjoy the small moments of calm reflection, to truly be present with family and friends, even if it’s just for an afternoon, and to remember that even when you’re outside feeding cows in the snow or breaking ice on water troughs, there’s so much to be thankful for.  And if all else fails, there’s always gin – they don’t call it mother’s helper for nothing!

Season’s greetings from Wearparts

We’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the farming families that make up 97% of the US agriculture industry – without you, the festive season would look very different for all of us.  We wish you the happiest of holidays, and look forward to working with you in 2024!

Crop rotation and how it benefits the soil

Maintaining soil fertility is a never-ending challenge for farmers, who are tasked with feeding a growing population using the same (or even less) land mass every year – and crop rotation is just one strategy farmers can deploy to keep their lands fertile.

For decades, it was thought that artificial fertilizers were an easy solution to soil degradation – after all, what could be simpler than just applying a man-made product to replace what nature lacks?  

But as we’ve learned more about more about soil, it’s become clear that artificial fertilizers aren’t a cure-all for nutrient depletion, and that their overuse can actually have a negative effect on soil quality as well as the wider environment.

Crop rotation is a natural method of soil enrichment that works with the soil ecosystem to preserve structure, encourage biodiversity and fix nitrogen and other nutrients.  Let’s take a look and how and why farmers do it.

What is crop rotation?

Crop rotation is a farming practice that involves systematically changing the type of crop that is grown in a particular field or location, usually from one year to the next – so instead of planting say, corn, in the same field year after year, the farmer rotates his crop by planting a different crop or group of plants in a specific sequence.  The types of crops in a rotation will depend on climate, soil type and the farmer’s goals.

Why do farmers rotate their crops?

In almost every aspect of the living world, variety is a good thing.  The more diversity that exists in any ecosystem, the healthier it will be – and soil is no different.  By rotating their crops, farmers can change up the variables when it comes to their soil ecosystem – factors like root depth, the volume of organic matter, moisture uptake and even the presence of insects can all have beneficial effects for the soil, and therefore subsequent crop yields.

Key benefits of crop rotation

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of crop rotation as opposed to monocropping (growing the same crop in the same place every year).

  1. Soil health improvement

Crop rotation is primarily used as a method of enriching the soil by rotating crops that deplete nutrients with crop that add nutrients – particularly nitrogen.  Leguminous crops like clover, vetch and peas are known as ‘nitrogen fixing’ plants, which means they capture nitrogen from the air and sequester it in the soil via their roots.  As well as being cheaper and more environmentally friendly than using man-made nitrogen fertilizers, it’s thought that using nature in this way makes nitrogen in the soil more readily available to subsequent crop cycles.

  1. Erosion prevention

Certain crops in a rotation can be used to minimize soil erosion.  Plants like grasses have deep roots and underground rhizomes that bind the soil together, reducing the risk of topsoil being washed away by rain or carried away by high winds.  Plants with deep, penetrating roots also help prevent soil from becoming compacted, which allows moisture to travel deeper and encourages the presence of earthworms and other organisms that work to break down organic matter and enhance the soil’s structure.

  1. Weed management

Crop rotations that include cover crops can aid with weed management by physically suppressing weed growth – stopping weed seeds from getting the moisture or light they need to germinate.  But changing up your crops – and therefore the wider conditions in the field – can also stop any one weed species from becoming dominant.  In monocropping systems, it’s common for one or two particular types of weed to thrive in the conditions that crop creates, and after several years, those weeds can become highly established and even resistant to herbicides.  Changing the crop means changing the conditions, which stops unwanted species from getting a strong foothold and makes all weeds easier to control.

  1. Pest and disease control

Much like with weeds, specific crops are vulnerable to specific types of pests and disease.  If you monocrop, the life cycles of those pests and diseases will quickly become established and can be increasingly difficult to break.  Switching crops prevents these cycles from occurring, giving your crops and soil a break from pest and disease problems that could otherwise become endemic – but also attracting beneficial insects and bacteria that work to keep soil ecosystems in balance long-term.

What does a typical crop rotation look like?

Crop rotations can vary a lot depending on climate, soil conditions and the farmer’s business objectives.  Here’s a very simplified example of a crop rotation and the reasons for the sequence:

Year 1: Legume Crop

Legume crops like peas and soybeans are nitrogen-fixing plants. They have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their root nodules, allowing them to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by plants. Planting legumes in the first year of the rotation enriches the soil with nitrogen, making it available for subsequent crops without the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Year 2: Grass Crop

Corn, wheat and sorghum are all examples of grass crops.  They are heavy nitrogen users and will therefore benefit from the nitrogen fixed into the soil by the legumes in year one, reducing the farmer’s dependence on synthetic fertilizers.  Grass crops also have a different pest and disease profile than legumes.

Year 3: Root Crop

Root crops like potatoes, carrots and other vegetables are typically grown last in a rotation because they are less demanding on soil nutrients and also because they naturally break up the soil structure as they grow, and during harvesting.  Since legumes prefer a loose soil structure, this is a useful characteristic.  As with other crop groups, the pest and disease profile of root crops is different, and helps to break the cycle.

Many crop rotations are more complicated than this – particularly when cover crops are added in between cash crops or during fallow periods. The length of rotation can also vary – some farmers will grow their main cash crop for several consecutive years before going into a rotation. 

What planting and tillage tools are needed for successful crop rotation?

When it comes to tillage and planting in a crop rotation, efficiency is really important.  The more complex your rotation is, the less you can afford downtime, so it’s important that tools like disc blades are long-wearing to avoid frequent changing, especially halfway through a busy season!

Soil compaction can be a problem in complex rotations due to the sheer number of passes required to plant and harvest multiple crops each year.  Thinking about how you can reduce passes – by switching to no-till, or using multi-purpose machinery – can reduce the amount of compaction.  It’s also really important to ensure your machinery and parts are well-maintained, with appropriate tire pressures and sharp blades to reduce drag.

Precision planting is also important, and you can save valuable time and energy with Guaranteed True® seed disc openers from Wearparts – we test every assembly in-house to some of the tightest wobble and lope tolerances, so you don’t have to. 

To find out more about how quality parts from Wearparts can enhance your crop rotations, get in touch.

Plant 24 is coming | Preseason Offers Live Now!

With exclusive discounts and credit terms on advance orders placed between October 15th and December 31st 2023, now is the perfect time to stock up on spring tillage & planting tools.

Order in bulk to save big – plus FREE shipping on all orders over $2,000!

All orders will ship between January 1st and April 15th, 2024.  Please allow 2-6 weeks for shipping.  Warehouse constraints may mean you are asked to take product early.

Order Now or Contact Us for more info.

Green Manure: A guide to cover cropping

As fall arrives across the US, the Midwest and other crop-producing states are preparing for harvest and thinking ahead to the winter months – which means sowing winter wheat, and also cover crops.

Research shows that cover crop adoption in the US has increased dramatically over the last decade, with 2021 levels at four time what they were in 2011 – but overall, cover crop adoption remains low at just 7.2% of available cropland.  

The recent increase in cover crop planting has been attributed to federal and state incentives for farmers – for example, the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which invested over $14 billion in conservation practices from 2010 to 2020.  

But with many farmers still choosing not to plant cover crops despite their potential benefits for the soil, we’re taking a closer look at an ancient farming practice that is coming back into fashion today.

Scattered seeds and emerging sprouts from the soil illustrating the initial stage of green manure cover cropping for healthier farm yields

What is a cover crop?

A cover crop is any crop that is planted in between ‘cash crops’ with the main goal of protecting or nourishing the soil.  Unlike cash crops, cover crops do not get harvested or sold – they are terminated at a specific point in their growing cycle and typically incorporated back into the soil either mechanically or naturally, although some are used as forage for animals.  Cover crops can also be referred to as ‘green manure’.  Ancient Chinese and Greek manuscripts suggest that the use of green manure has been around for thousands of years.

What are the benefits of cover cropping?

Planting a cover crop has numerous benefits for the soil and therefore, for future yields when cover crops are followed by cash crops like corn or soybeans. Here’s a look at the key benefits:

1. Prevention of soil erosion

In all but the southern states, winter weather typically brings with it harsh conditions involving wind, rain, snow and ice that can wreak havoc on exposed soil.  A 2022 study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that farms in the US breadbasket have lost on average 2mm of soil per year since the land was settled 160 years ago – that adds up to 57.6 billion metric tons of soil. 

Cover crops act as protection that prevents erosion – surface vegetation prevents soil being lifted by wind or washed away by surface runoff, while root structures bind the top layer of soil together and absorb excess water, reducing the risk of waterlogging.

2. Enhanced soil fertility

Cover crops are designed to be incorporated into the soil after they are terminated – either by being mechanically chopped and tilled in, or simply being left to decompose on the surface.  Either way, they add much-needed organic matter to the soil which can enhance its ability to retain moisture and nutrients. 

It’s common to use nitrogen fixing crops such as legumes as cover crops.  Nitrogen fixing plants have roots that are colonized by organisms that can trap and store atmospheric nitrogen.  When plowed into the earth, these plants are excellent at replacing the nitrogen that is removed by many cash crops, such as corn.

3. Weed management

Following harvest, it’s incredible how quickly weeds can colonize a field.  The difference between allowing weeds to cover the soil and deliberately planting a cover crop is that the farmer can control the outcome ahead of spring planting. 

While many weed species can drain the soil of nitrogen and other nutrients, as well as being extremely difficult to get rid of once established, cover crops are specifically selected because they’re easy to manage and good for the soil. 

By their very definition, cover crops provide excellent soil coverage which prevents weed seeds from germinating – meaning that in spring, there’s less work to do to get the main crop in the ground.

Farming vehicle with rotating blades preparing to cultivate the soil, highlighting a step in the cover cropping process for enhanced yield

What are the challenges of cover cropping?

Like any planting cycle, cover cropping involves additional work and demands that farmers pay even closer attention to the timing of their planting and harvesting cycles in order to get the maximum benefit of a cover crop.

Cover crop seeds also cost money, and some farmers may feel that the benefits can be matched by applying artificial fertilizers, especially if they live in an area where soil erosion is less of a problem.  Cover cropping may also incur additional costs for farm labor, fuel and equipment.

A big barrier to the use of cover cropping is lack of knowledge and perceived risks.  Although this method has been around for generations, it has fallen out of favor in the last century and therefore farmers may not feel confident in trying something that is new to them and their land.

What are the main types of cover crop in the US?

There are three main groups of plants that are typically used as cover crops in the US:

Sorghum hybrids (sudangrass)
Fast growing
Easy to manage residues
Can be used as forage
Fibrous roots bind the soil
LegumesWhite/Crimson Clover
Hairy Vetch
Can fix nitrogen from the air
Taproots improve compacted soil
Good organic matter
Can be used as forage
Broadleaf non-legumesBrassicas
Good for improving soil structure
Store soil nitrogen
Can be used as forage
Can deter pests

Which cover crop should I plant?

The type of cover crop selected will depend on the soil type and environmental conditions, but also on the type of cash crop the farmer wishes to grow next.  

For example, grass cover crops are often used where soil erosion is a problem – for example in locations where heavy wind and rain is a problem – and where the subsequent crop requires a good soil structure and little weed competition, such as corn and soybeans.

Corn and soybeans are also fairly demanding on soil nutrients, so a farmer who is less worried about soil erosion and more worried about fertilizer costs might opt to plant legumes over winter before putting in his spring corn or soybeans.  Legumes are also ideal cover prior to vegetable crops like peppers and tomatoes, which need a lot of nutrients.

Broadleaf non-legumes are often used as cover on mixed farms where they are a useful source of forage for livestock, but they also have disease and pest reducing properties that make them a useful cover crop prior to the planting of tender vegetables including lettuce.

Broadleaf non-legumes

What happens to cover crops in spring?

Prior to planting of the main cash crop, cover crops are typically ‘terminated’.  This can be done by mowing or tilling, use of herbicides or sometimes simply by turning livestock into the field where they will eat the crop and fertilize the soil with their manure. Some cover crops will die back naturally when the coldest winter weather arrives, and can easily be tilled into the soil before planting season begins in spring.

Termination of cover crops is timed carefully to ensure the plants have achieved optimal maturity – where they have accumulated enough organic matter to enrich the soil, and usually before they go to seed.  

Tools for the task include vertical tillage blades, high speed compact discs and coulter blades.  The type of equipment used will depend on the cover crop – fibrous grasses typically demand a more aggressive approach and will decompose more slowly than legumes, so the approach to residue management may be different.  Whatever your requirements, Wearparts can offer a quality alternative to OEM parts, with options to suit all machinery brands and soil types.

More information on cover crops

For more information about cover crops and available incentive schemes in your area, visit the USDA website.  For advice on tillage tools to enhance your crop rotation, manage residues and tackle soil quality challenges, get in touch with Wearparts directly or find your nearest Wearparts dealer.

The ‘next big thing’ in seed openers is already here

Waiting for the ‘next big thing’ in seed openers from an OEM brand?  What if we told you this new technology already exists – and you can order now to install on planters in time for the 2024 planting season?

At Wearparts, we’re leading the way on high quality aftermarket seed openers that knock OEM options out of the park on tolerance, for the most efficient, precise planting you’ve ever achieved.

Premium seed opener assemblies

Our AA65248MDBA seed opener assemblies (designed to fit John Deere planters) feature heat-treated boron steel blades and reinforced 5mm thick bearing housings with 5/16” rivets, precision-assembled using Peer bearings.  The blades themselves are designed with a longer bevel that allows the edge to stay sharper for longer, outlasting our closest competitor blade by as much as 8%.

Our blade assemblies are tested in-house by us to some of the tightest tolerances in the ag industry – each blade must achieve a minimum of .050/1.27mm axial / .060/1.52mm radial tolerance, or it doesn’t leave our warehouse.  That means no wobble and no lope – and no need to waste hours pre-qualifying blades prior to installation.  

Our Field-Ready Guarantee means that if our blades don’t run true we’ll replace them, no questions asked – so farmers can stop worrying about testing blades before installation, and get on with getting those seeds in the ground.

Achieve bigger yields

Truer blades mean a precise, v-shaped trench for seeds to drop into with less risk of trash getting in there, leading to the formation of air pockets when the trench is closed.  As a result, seeds germinate more consistently and crops are less prone to disease, pests and rot – which means bigger, more predictable yields.  And not only that – our blade assemblies are also guaranteed against breakage in the field, which means zero downtime caused by parts failure.

Put all these benefits together, and the farmer gets increased planting efficiency with a lower cost per acre AND the potential for increased yields, at OEM spec without the hefty OEM price tag.  

As a dealer, you benefit from vastly reduced comebacks, which means more satisfied customers and a lot less paperwork. We’ve got stock of these blade assemblies available for fall shipping, so you and your customers can be well ahead of the game for 2024 planting.

Why wait around for that big OEM reveal – get a pocket-friendly head start with Wearparts and see for yourself why customers choose our seed opener assemblies year after year.  Complete the form below to learn more or contact your sales rep to place a wholesale order.

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Mastering weed control: The power of sweeps in tillage farming

Sweeps – or shovels and plows as they’re known in some parts of the US – are an important tillage tool, used at various points throughout the farming year to aerate and condition the soil.

A sweep is a v-shaped or curved wing metal blade, typically designed to attach to the shanks of a row crop, or field cultivator or chisel plow.  The sweep penetrates the soil to a fixed depth, and then as it is pulled through the soil it lifts and turns over the top layer.

The primary purpose of agricultural sweeps in tillage farming is to disturb the top layer of soil, break up any compacted soil, and incorporate crop residue or cover crops into the soil. This process helps to improve soil aeration, water infiltration, and nutrient availability, which are essential for healthy plant growth.

But there’s another important use for sweeps, and that’s weed control.  With planting season now well underway, it won’t be long until farmers have to start thinking about suppressing weeds to ensure their crops receive optimal levels of light, nutrients and water.

image of soil following weed control

How can sweeps be used to control weeds?

Controlling weeds with sweeps is referred to as mechanical weed control.  It can be done prior to planting, or during the growing season.  Some farmers will do both in order to give their crops the best chance of successful germination and growth.

Mechanical weed control is suitable for organic systems, and if done meticulously, can negate the use of chemical herbicides.  Farmers may also use mechanical weed control in conjunction with herbicides.  Here are some of the ways sweeps can help farmers to control weeds in their crop fields:

Weed removal

Using sweeps can physically uproot or sever young weeds as they push up through the soil.  The young plants will then wither and die before they have a chance to become established or set seed.  Shallow sweeps are usually sufficient for this task because the plants are still tender with poorly developed root systems, so soil disturbance is minimal.  Regularly using sweeps can help farmers keep on top of weeds without the need for any other treatments.  

Incorporating cover crops

Planting a cover crop is one method farmers can use to prevent soil erosion and reduce weed problems.  Cover crops may be planted in the season before the main crop (for example, winter wheat), or they can be planted a short time before the main crop is due to be planted.  In the latter case, the most common crops are fast-growing legumes like clover, peas, soybeans and alfalfa.  These plants accumulate biomass quickly, crowding out weeds.  The cover crop is terminated right before planting of the main crop, and the residues are incorporated into the soil using sweeps.  This process is sometimes called ‘green mulching’.

Disturbing weed roots

For more established weeds, sweeps are a great way to cut through their root systems beneath the soil, preventing the plant from absorbing water and nutrients so that they wither up and die.  It’s important to use strong, sharp blades and set the sweeps to a sufficient depth where they can cut through tough tap roots effectively.

Enhancing herbicide application

In some cases, sweeps are used in conjunction with herbicide application. The sweeps disturb the soil, which allows herbicides to reach the weed roots more easily. Combining mechanical and chemical weed control can significantly reduce the farmer’s dependence on expensive herbicides.

What’s the best type of sweep for weed control?

Sweeps come in a variety of shapes and widths for different tillage applications.  Some are very narrow and pointed, while others have a shallower angle for less aggressive cutting.  Sweeps also come in different depths.

Sweep shape

The angle and crown of a sweep wings will determine how it moves through the soil.  Narrower winged sweeps are subject to less soil resistance so they can move more quickly and easily, especially in row crop cultivation.  These sweeps are suitable for shallower cutting.  Sweeps with a steeper angle will be met with more soil resistance and may be used in very dry or rocky conditions, so they move more slowly and smoothly, but are only suitable for use at shallow to medium depths.  

Sweep width

The width of a sweep determines how much ground it can cover in a single pass.  Wider sweeps typically have a shallower angle, and vice versa.   

Sweep depth

The depth of a sweep is determined by the length of the stem or mounting bracket.  A longer bracket will allow the sweep to penetrate more deeply, as will increasing the downward pressure on the plow or cultivator itself.  Some machines have adjustable shanks so that farmers can get variable depths.

Narrower sweeps are better for cutting through the roots of established weeds.  Wider, shallower sweeps are better for removing young weeds, or incorporating cover crops.

image of sweeps being used for weed control

What should I look for when choosing sweeps for my machinery?

The most important thing is to ensure the sweep you choose are compatible with your machinery brand.  At Wearparts, we offer a range of sweeps to fit all common chisel plow, row crop, and cultivator brands, including FallowMaster.

The second thing to think about is the durability of the sweep versus the cost.  Think about your soil type – is it dry and rocky, or heavy clay?  Perhaps it’s loamy and easy to work.  If you’re going to be working in difficult soil conditions, it’s worth investing more in heavy duty sweeps that can withstand the intense friction and loading that will occur as you pass through the field.

In these conditions, cheaper sweeps are usually a false economy – they wear much more often, so you have to replace them more frequently, and you lose valuable time while your machine is down for maintenance.

Hardfaced sweeps

At Wearparts, we use premium-grade materials like boron steel to manufacture our agricultural sweeps.  This gives our sweeps a unique balance of strength and flexibility that increases wearlife and reduces the risk of breakage, while maximizing efficiency even in tough soil conditions.

We also offer custom hardfacing as an option on all sweeps.  You can choose to have your sweeps hardfaced on the top or bottom plus the stem.  CMT Hardfacing is a cold welding process that adds material to the ground-engaging portion of the blade, without superheating the base material.  This stops the formation of weak spots that can lead to premature wear.  Our own independent tests show that our hardfaced sweeps can deliver up to 30% longer wear life in the field.

To find out more about our range of sweeps for chisel plows, row crop and field cultivators, get in touch!

A farmer’s guide to growing hemp in the USA

Agriculture in the USA has increasingly become an industry of fine margins.  A tweak here, an innovation there – farmers must tune in to small changes in the industry and technology that can help them to squeeze that vital extra profit out of a business that is largely stretched to its limits.

But a few years back, a change to legislation triggered something of a gold rush in farming.  Changes to the Farm Bill 2018 took hemp off the list of controlled substances, and opened a floodgate.  

Farmers raced to plant hemp, lured by soaring demand.  Many made a tidy profit in 2019, but just a year later, the bubble seemed to burst.  Huge supplies of hemp lay unsold as farmers struggled to access processing facilities, while others suffered crop failure due to bad weather.

Despite this, many farmers remain interested in the possibilities of hemp as an alternative crop – but they’re understandably cautious.

Why grow hemp?

Industrially-grown hemp is an extremely versatile crop.  It grows quickly, often in less than 100 days, requiring less pesticides and weedkillers than other crops, and using less water.  It’s also known for its deep roots, which can help to break up compacted soil, prevent soil erosion and sequester carbon.

Hemp used to be widely grown across the US for these very reasons – even the founding father, George Washington, is known to have cultivated hemp, and an early draft of the Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp paper.

Today, demand for hemp is growing worldwide due to increased awareness of the potential health and environmental benefits.  This makes hemp growing an extremely interesting prospect for farmers who may be struggling to make money from other crops.

What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Industrial hemp is part of the cannabis sativa plant family, which essentially means it’s related to marijuana.  But industrial hemp varieties are extremely low in the psychoactive component of the plant, called THC.  The USDA specifies that agricultural hemp grown in the USA must have a THC content of less than 0.3%, or it must be destroyed.

What is hemp used for?

Hemp has a huge variety of uses.  The majority of hemp grown in the USA is grown for its flowers, from which oil can be extracted for use in the manufacturing of CBD products.  The demand for CBD oil is growing exponentially due to its health benefits and effectiveness as a treatment for a wide range of complaints, including pain, anxiety and insomnia.

Hemp can also be grown for its fibre, which has a huge range of uses.  It’s an environmentally-friendly alternative that can be used to make paper, textiles, plastics, biofuels and construction materials.

Lastly, hemp can be used as food.  It’s approved as a foodstuff for humans and pets in most states, but currently it cannot be fed to livestock that will enter the food chain.

Is growing hemp legal in the USA?

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the USDA’s list of controlled substances, making hemp production legal at federal level in the US.  But many individual states have their own laws and regulations governing hemp cultivation, and some (like Colorado and Oregon, for example) are more welcoming to the cultivation of hemp than others (such as Idaho and South Dakota).

Before investing in hemp as a crop, it’s important to understand what guidelines your state requires you to follow.  Regardless of where you want to grow hemp in the USA, you require a license to do so and you must inform the relevant authorities about exactly where and how much hemp you intend to cultivate each year.

Is it easy to grow hemp?

Once established, hemp is easy to grow.  It is not vulnerable to many of the diseases and pests that can affect other conventional crops like corn, and is an extremely effective weed suppressor due to its rapid growth rate.

However, hemp does require certain conditions to grow well.  It likes rich, well-drained soils with a neutral pH, so testing before planting is always advisable.  Hemp can be killed by frost, so seeds should not be sown until the risk of frost has passed.  Established hemp plants have deep roots that make them fairly drought tolerant, but young plants need moisture and will require irrigation for the first six weeks if the soil is dry.  

Hemp is a photoperiodic plant, which means its growth is directly impacted by the amount of light it receives.  The crop needs a minimum of 12 hours sunlight per day during the growing season, which means it may not be suitable for shaded fields or valleys.

In the USA, the pacific northwest has an ideal climate for growing hemp, with a mild climate and long growing season.  Hemp is also widely grown in Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee and California.

What tillage and planting tools are needed to cultivate hemp?

Farmers don’t need any specialist tillage or planting tools to cultivate hemp.  Land for the cultivation of hemp should be identified well ahead of time and tested for the appropriate pH (6.5-7).  

Hemp seeds germinate best in moist, well-aerated soil.  Strong, rapid germination is essential if the young plants are to out-compete weeds.  Good seed-to-soil contact is required so a firm, level and relatively fine seedbed should be prepared (similar to that for other forage crops) using the appropriate tillage tools.  

Hemp can be sown in rows or using a grain drill. Narrow row planting may negate the use of pesticides or herbicides in organic systems, but planting density varies depending on the variety and purpose of the hemp – flowering varieties for oil extraction often being planted more densely than varieties for fiber or grain.  Hemp can be successfully grown in no-till systems provided that the soil is warm and moist at planting, providing optimal conditions for rapid germination and growth of the seeds.

Hemp in crop rotations

Hemp makes an ideal crop to add to a crop rotation system.  It grows rapidly and matures quickly, with a deep taproot system that reduces soil compaction and erosion, and draws nutrients to the surface. Hemp’s natural disease resistance means it can help to reduce pathogens in the soil while contributing to increased potassium and nitrate levels.  Many farmers planting fall cereals after a hemp crop have reported increased yields and less dependence on herbicides.

Is hemp a financially viable crop?

Hemp has the potential to be a game changer for US farmers.  Acre for acre, hemp’s value far exceeds that of corn and the global market for industrial hemp is expected to grow to $17bn by 2030.  Hemp can also be used for many things besides foodstuffs, with the added benefit of being more sustainable to grow than almost any other crop (given the right conditions).

However, farmers who are early adopters of industrial hemp face significant challenges and must weigh the pros and cons carefully.  Hemp does require fairly specific conditions for successful growth, and even if you get a large crop, there are still question marks – for instance, too much sunlight can cause the plants to grow ‘hot’, with a THC level over the 0.3% threshold that will result in those plants being destroyed.

Then there’s processing.  Whether it’s CBD oil extraction or processing hemp fiber, there’s currently a lack of hemp processing facilities in the US.  Farmers face significant costs to transport the bulky fiber to processing centers, and may face legal challenges along the way due to differing state laws on transportation.  But with prospective processors nervous about investing in more facilities due to limited supplies of raw hemp, it’s a chicken-and-egg situation – one that farmers across the US will be watching with interest over the coming years.

Agricultural Bearing Hubs: What they are and why they matter

In crop farming, there will always be the need for tillage in one form or another, and disc blades have long been regarded as the most efficient tool for the task – in fact the disc harrow as we know it today was first invented way back in the 1880s. 

Rotating circular blades create less resistance when moving through rocky or heavy soils, which maximizes efficiency – and wherever there’s a rotating blade, you’ll usually find a bearing hub.  

But what exactly are agricultural bearing hubs?  What function do they perform?  What should you look out for when choosing bearing hubs for your disc harrow or cultivator?  Let’s take a look at some of the engineering behind agricultural bearing hubs, and how they can impact on machinery performance.

What is an agricultural bearing hub?

An agricultural hub or bearing hub is an assembly of parts that allows a rotating blade or other ground-engaging component to be attached individually to a machine such as a harrow.

Agricultural bearing hubs are made up of two main parts – a rolling bearing, and a bearing housing.  

A rolling bearing is composed of two concentric, grooved metal rings called races.  Within the groove between the two races is a series of ball bearings or rollers.  The ball bearings allow the races to roll clockwise or counter-clockwise around each other with a minimal amount of friction.

Most bearings are mounted in a housing that enables them to be fitted onto a piece of machinery.  There are lots of different types of bearing housing, for example pillow block bearings, flanged bearings, tapered bearings and more.

In an agri hub assembly, the bearing is housed in a circular hub with bolt holes that allow the complete assembly to be securely attached to the center of a disc blade for a high-speed disc harrow, a planter or other piece of machinery.

What do agricultural bearing hubs do?

As we’ve already explained, bearing hub units are used for any machine that has rotating blades mounted on individual shafts as opposed to ‘gangs’ of blades, which are mounted in groups on a shared axle.  

Bearing hubs allow the moving parts to turn freely, reducing friction and minimizing wear on the parts themselves.  They absorb the load of the machinery itself, and the drag as the blades move through the soil.  This protects non-replaceable components from the long term effects of vibration, axial and radial forces, and even impacts with obstacles in the field, such as rocks.

Bearings also serve to distribute loads more evenly so that components like disc blades can achieve consistent contact with the soil, and wear down evenly.  The result is that blades need replacing less often, and the overall lifespan of expensive machinery is extended.

Maintenance of agricultural bearing hubs

Maintaining your agricultural bearing hubs is important for overall machine performance.

Worn bearings can result in uneven blade-to-soil contact, which in turn affects soil aeration and seed germination.  If your bearings are worn, your blades won’t turn freely, which increases drag – this results in more wear and tear on your disc harrow or planter, and will also increase your fuel costs.

Signs of worn bearing hubs include:

  • A grinding noise when the blade turns
  • Excessive vibrations when the machine is operating
  • Heating up or discoloration of the bearing housing
  • Oil or grease leaking from the housing
  • Contaminants accumulating in the bearing housing

Key features of agricultural bearing hubs

In agricultural operations, bearing hubs have to withstand a unique set of challenges.  

Bearing hubs that are not specifically designed for agricultural machinery are unlikely to deliver the durability required.  This can result in frequent breakdowns and costly downtime for the farmer, as well as potential long-term damage to equipment.

Load capacity and speed

Agricultural bearings are exposed to extreme, often variable radial and axial loads.

This can be from the weight of the equipment, from collisions with rocks and debris in the field, from the force of the cutting blades, or from the gears of the machine itself.  

These loads act on the bearing for long periods and across large areas, sometimes thousands of acres.  If the bearings don’t perform consistently, the blades can’t do their job properly, resulting in inconsistent results.

Speed is an important consideration when choosing the right bearing hubs for your application.  For example, a high-speed disc harrow will put a lot more strain on its bearings, compared to a lower speed machine.

Contamination resistance

Another key challenge for agricultural bearing hubs is contamination.  Farm machinery operates in difficult conditions with a lot of contamination in the form of water, soil, seeds and even corrosive substances like pesticides and fertilizers.  

If these contaminants are able to get inside the bearing hub, they can damage the smooth action of the bearing, or even cause it to seize up.

For this reason, agricultural bearing hubs should be designed with an effective system to seal the housing against contamination, keeping dirt out while sealing the lubricant in for long-term performance.  As mentioned above, if you see grease leaking from your bearing housing, or if it’s gathering debris, it may be time to replace.

Ease of maintenance

That brings us to a final point – ease of maintenance.  Most agricultural bearing hubs are designed to be maintenance-free.  Because they are sealed to prevent contamination, you can’t normally lubricate them yourself – they should simply be replaced when they become worn.  

Removing a bearing hub is a relatively simple task – simply loosen the bolts that attach the hub to the disc.  If the bolts have seized over time, you may need to carefully grind them off.

Wearparts bearing hubs

At Wearparts, we offer a range of agricultural bearing hubs to fit various brands of farm machinery.  We’ve searched the globe for the finest engineering and most carefully considered hub designs, to ensure our customers get the efficient performance and long wear life they expect from Wearparts.

Our bearing hubs offer key features including induction hardened flanges and cast housings for enhanced durability.  We’re also the exclusive distributor of FKL bearing hubs in the United States.  

Based in Serbia, FKL has been manufacturing high-performance bearing hubs since the 1960s and has a specific product development program for agriculture.  Their Agro Point hub assemblies offer best-in-class performance for farming operations, including their unique ‘dirtblock’ system for contamination.

FKL’s dirtblock seal is high-durability solution created for heavy-duty applications in harsh environmental and operating conditions. It ensures that grease is always in contact with the rolling element and bearing raceway, while also preventing mud penetration and dissipating the heat produced during operation. 

Wearparts bearing hubs (including FKL hubs) come in various diameters, with 4 and 5-hole bolt patterns to fit a wide range of OEM branded machinery, including Degelman, Vaderstad, Horsch, Norwood, John Deere, Amazone, Kuhn, Poettinger, Lemken and more.

To find out more, get in touch – or click to find your nearest Wearparts dealer today.

Autonomous Agriculture Vehicles: Future of Farming | Wearparts

Autonomous agriculture vehicles – the future of farming?

If you were born before 1995, you probably grew up thinking that by now, we would all have flying cars and robotic servants attending to our every need.

In reality, technology has advanced more slowly than the kids of the 70s and 80s thought it would. But we’re still seeing some incredible progress, particularly in automation. 

A hot topic in the agriculture industry right now is the potential of autonomous agriculture vehicles to revolutionize farming.

Autonomous agricultural vehicles include everything from drones that can take soil samples and monitor crops from the air to robotic seed planters that can plant and fertilize in a single pass, to autonomous tractors that can literally give farmers extra hours in the day.  

Autonomous farm vehicles have been generating a lot of interest since John Deere launched the world’s first fully autonomous tractor in Las Vegas in 2022 – so let’s take a look at this technology, and what it could mean for the future of farming.

What is an autonomous tractor?

An autonomous tractor is a driverless tractor that can be programmed and controlled by computer, so it doesn’t need a human driver in the cab. 

John Deere has been pioneering autonomous tractor technology after launching the 8R410 – although what they actually launched was not an all-new tractor, but technology that could make an existing 8R autonomous.  

This included fitting the vehicle with 12 stereo camera pods and making some changes to its transmission.  As a result, the company says this technology will eventually be available for retrofitting to certain John Deere models, with the tractors able to be driven manually or autonomously.

Interest in the technology has been high because of significant labor shortages in the American agriculture industry and the length of time farmers currently have to spend sitting in their tractor cabs to perform large-scale operations such as tilling or cultivating.

How do autonomous tractors work?

Autonomous tractors work by using Satellite GPS and other advanced electronic controls without requiring a driver present. 

In fact, much of this technology has already been in use for some time – the only difference is that in an autonomous tractor, the onboard computer systems can be controlled remotely, using a computer or mobile app.  This is combined with a number of onboard GPS-enabled cameras and radar technology that allows the vehicle to ‘see’ where it’s going, and avoid obstacles.  

The tractor can be programmed to follow a specific course, at a specific speed, with its operations tailored to suit the terrain, weather conditions and task being performed.

As the farming industry becomes ever more competitive, the autonomous capabilities and extreme precision offered by self-driving tractors is likely to fuel growing demand for the technology.

What are the benefits of autonomous tractors?

Autonomous tractors can save farmers a significant amount of time, given that they can spend up to 15 hours a day sitting in a tractor cab at key times of the year.  

Driverless tractors allow farmers more time to focus on other work, increasing productivity on vital farming operations.  These autonomous vehicles can also work at any time – including through the night, when workers are asleep.
For large-scale farms, autonomous technology holds a possible solution to increasing labor shortages – a problem that’s on the rise due to change in US immigration policy.  Driverless tractors may also hold the key to helping US farmers feed a growing global population despite dwindling human resources.

Precision agriculture

Precision is another key benefit of automated vehicles, which eliminates human error that can push farming costs up.  The technology could even have long-term benefits for the soil.  

Farmers currently choose the biggest machines they can afford to get the most amount of work done in the least amount of time. 

But take away those time constraints, they could perform the same task with smaller machines, reducing ecosystem disturbances and soil compaction.

Eventually, it could be the case that even the largest farms can operate a fleet of small, automated machines instead of a few huge ones.

What are the downsides of autonomous tractor technology?

The biggest obstacle to adoption of autonomous tractor technology is currently the cost. 

Although innovations such as John Deere’s retrofitted technology are aimed at reducing capital costs, and other factors – such as labor savings – this will undoubtedly mitigate them too. 

New technology safety concerns

There’s been a lot of debate around whether autonomous tractors are safe – what happens if a driverless vehicle becomes uncontrollable? Who will be liable for the damage?  Again, advances in technology are all about easing these concerns.  

Deere’s autonomous tractor for example, is programmed to stop if it detects an unexpected obstacle closer than 90 feet away – and will alert the farmer to perform a safety check or re-route before moving off again.  The vehicle will also stop if its cameras or GPS systems go offline for any reason (though this can be a drawback if you farm in a cellular data blackspot).

Artificial intelligence use could impact jobs

There’s the suspicion that is currently impacting all industries – what will this mean for human jobs?  It’s true that the use of autonomous agricultural vehicles could affect seasonal workers. But the type of jobs that can currently be carried out by driverless tractors is limited, so for now those jobs are likely safe.  

In the future, it’s likely that autonomous vehicles will be able to do much more. With seasonal farm labor already in short supply, and dwindling numbers of young people coming into the farming profession, autonomous technology is likely to solve more problems than it creates.

Are automated vehicles the future of farming?

Autonomous tractors have a long way to go before they are widely adopted on US farms. 

But other types of autonomous agriculture vehicles – such as drones – that were once regarded as a fad, have now become widely used and hugely valuable for farmers.  

While there will always be those that prefer to do things the conventional way, it’s very likely that many will eventually embrace autonomous tractors and other autonomous machines in the same way.  

As farming becomes more challenging due to climate change, labor shortages and rising costs, it’s possible that autonomous technology holds the key to global food security in the future.