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Introducing Wearparts Raptor-Loc Tillage Sweeps

One of the most common questions we get asked in relation to tillage sweeps is whether we can provide a quick-change sweep to fit John Deere Perma-Loc.

We’re delighted to say that after a lengthy NPD process, the answer is yes!  Our all-new Wearparts Raptor-Loc sweeps are designed as a direct alternative to John Deere Perma-Loc sweeps, delivering the additional wear life farmers expect from Wearparts PLUS the added speed and convenience of a knock-on sweep, with no adapters required.

What is a quick-change sweep?

A quick-change or knock-on sweep is one that attaches to the shanks of the cultivator or toolbar with clips instead of bolts. The sweeps simply push on (sometimes a gentle knock with a mallet is required) and clip into place.  

In the case of John Deere’s Perma-Loc sweep, the implement is then held in place with a spring latch, with no risk that they can work loose during use. When it’s time to remove them, you can use a specific tool or an ordinary screwdriver to push down the latch and release the sweep (again, sometimes a light tap with a hammer is needed).

Why choose quick-change sweeps?

The most obvious benefit of switching to quick-change sweeps is the significant time saving – farmers report being able to change every sweep on their field cultivator in as little as 20 minutes. There’s also the added convenience, since working with bolt-on sweeps means grappling with nuts, bolts and wrenches to get the sweeps attached and tightened adequately, often resulting in cut fingers. 

About Wearparts Raptor-Loc sweeps

If you’re looking for an alternative to John Deere’s OEM Perma-Loc sweeps, Wearparts Raptor-Loc sweeps are the perfect alternative, providing heavy-duty performance that fits the John Deere spring-latch system with no need for an adapter.

The sweeps themselves are built to give farmers supreme performance, and are based on the design of our best-selling Raptor sweep. Key features include:

A curved wing profile

Offers a longer cutting edge within the same sweep footprint, reducing draft for lowered horsepower requirements and reduced fuel consumption while facilitating a higher working speed (optimal performance at 7-10mph). 

An extended nose

Delivers advanced soil penetration, aggressively breaking up compaction and reducing wear on the blade.

A stay-wide wing

Wing ends are cut straight, parallel to the shank and each other, ensuring the cutting width remains consistent for the life of the sweep.

Lock-on stem

Designed to fit John Deere Perma-Loc with no need for an adapter – simply lock on and remove with a JD tool or the Wearparts one, supplied with every order.

Optional hardfacing

We can hardface these sweeps using the CMT process, which adds on average 30% extra material to the nose and leading edge of the sweep, extending the wearlife even in abrasive soil conditions.

Find a Wearparts dealer

Our new Raptor-Loc sweeps are available to order NOW from all good Wearparts dealers. Get a jump on your 2025 spring tillage and get your sweep game locked in now – or for further information and specific product questions, contact our knowledgeable sales team.

Precision Ag: Where Advanced Tech meets Quality Components

With the global population expected to increase by 2.2 billion by 2050, it’s estimated that farmers worldwide will need to increase food production by 70% to meet additional demand – but without more land mass to accommodate this growth, the industry is looking to precision farming practices for a solution.

Precision agriculture involves the use of modern technology and data gathering to effectively micromanage farming operations, enabling farmers to respond in real-time to variations in terrain, climate, and soil quality as a means of increasing yields.

In this blog, we’ll look at some of the technology around precision agriculture practices, and why it’s vital farmers choose premium quality implements to ensure the best possible return on their tech investment.

What technologies are used for precision agriculture?

Precision agriculture leverages a range of different technologies in order to enhance the efficiency of farming operations, with the ultimate goal of increasing crop yields from the same amount of land. Here’s a look at some of the key components:

  1. Geolocation technology

Precision ag relies heavily on Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which allow for precise mapping and analysis of variations in field conditions and soil quality. GPS is used for accurate positioning and navigation of farming equipment so farmers can respond to different conditions in different locations using onboard computers in the tractor cab – for example, they might adjust the amount of fertilizer being dispensed if they know an area of the field is particularly lacking in nutrients.

  1. Sensors and Monitors

Sensor technology can be used to monitor a wide range of environmental and soil conditions, including moisture levels, temperature, pH, and nutrient status. These sensors can be stationary in the field, handheld/manual, or mobile, attached to machinery or drones.  They feed information back to a computer on the desktop or even directly to an onboard computer in the tractor cab.

  1. Variable Rate Technology (VRT)

VRT enables farmers to vary the rate of application of inputs such as water, fertilizers, and pesticides depending on the specific needs of each area as determined by sensor data. This helps to optimize resource use and minimize waste.

  1. Drones

Drones equipped with cameras or sensors can provide detailed aerial assessments that help farmers evaluate crop health and stand uniformity, as well as identifying pest and disease outbreaks.  This ‘birds-eye view’ is vital for spotting potential problems before they take hold, and also for understanding what’s working and what isn’t in your precision ag strategy for future reference and iteration.

  1. Analytics Software

Sensors, drones, and other technologies are capable of collecting large amounts of insightful data that can help farmers unlock hidden potential in their farmland and farming practices – but first, they have to be able to analyze that data.  Specific software programs exist that make this process simple and quick for busy farmers – they can predict crop yields, suggest optimal planting times, tell farmers when to fertilize or irrigate, and more.

  1. Automated and Robotic Equipment

Farmers are increasingly turning to automated processes to help save them time and labor costs. This includes self-driving tractors, robotic harvesters, and automated irrigation systems. These technologies can leverage the power of data to make farms more productive too.

  1. Precision Seeding Technology

Controls downforce, metering, seed depth & placement in order to achieve uniform emergence and maximum crop productivity

Are there drawbacks to precision agriculture?

Precision ag is at its most effective when all of the technologies mentioned above work together in harmony to empower farmers with knowledge, and the ability to act on it in the field.  

However, one of the biggest drawbacks is the cost of investing in and implementing precision ag technology.  For this reason, it is predominantly used by large-scale private and commercial farms with the financial resources to spend, and the most potential to gain.

With that said, smaller-scale farmers with smaller budgets can still benefit from the more affordable aspects of precision agriculture – for instance, many farms now use drone technology to monitor crop health, and the majority already have sensor technology and analytics software fitted as standard in their tractor cabs, to maximize efficiency in tillage and planting operations.

There is also now a rental market for precision ag technology, opening the door for growers to avail of the benefits without a huge capital investment.

Essential tools for precision agriculture

It goes without saying that all the sensors, computers, and automation in the world won’t make your farming practices more precise if you’re running sub-standard tillage and planting implements.  

We can’t stress enough how vital it is, especially during planting time, to select disc openers, gauge wheels, and other components that can offer accurate, consistent performance for an extended period of time – otherwise, all the efficiency you gain from technology will potentially be lost to downtime, uneven seed placement, inconsistent input application and a multitude of other operational factors.

Here’s a look at some of the specific ways Wearparts components can support the objectives of precision agriculture:

Ultra-precise seed openers

Seed openers have one vitally important job when it comes to precision planting – opening a clean, straight, and consistently v-shaped trench for the seed to drop into.  

When the trench is precise, the seed will always fall into the bottom, which ensures optimal planting depth.  If the trench varies in depth, if it wobbles from side to side, or if it’s contaminated with loose soil or residue, there is a real risk the seed will not land at the optimal depth, or that air pockets can form around it when the trench is closed.  This in turn can lead to seeds rotting, slow germination, or failure to emerge at all.

For the seed opener to create a perfect trench it must have a perfectly consistent ‘pinch point’ where the two blades meet.  We test 100% of our seed opener assemblies to ensure they meet our industry-leading standards on wobble and lope.  

As a result, every blade that leaves our factory delivers a consistently accurate pinch point, with minimal need for extra shimming or adjustments.  Not only that, our seed openers undergo a patented heat treatment process to enhance their sharpness and longevity, even in tough soil conditions.

Premium gauge wheels

Gauge wheels are the unsung heroes of planting season and absolutely vital for giving advanced machinery and software the physical tools to optimize performance. As well as ensuring adequate, consistent seed depth, gauge wheels play an important role in trench stability and overall soil structure – read more about how our gauge wheels help farmers to plant more efficiently while preventing soil compaction.

Long-life tillage tools

You might think that precision agriculture doesn’t really apply to tillage operations – but you’d be wrong.  Increasingly, farmers employing precision ag practices are looking to apply the principles of variable rate to their tillage operations as well, using tech to vary the depth, angle and intensity of tillage tools on the go.

It’s not hard to see how the time this saves could be easily eaten up if your disc blades, sweeps or other tillage tools are wearing out quickly and needing to be replaced every few thousand acres.  

That’s why we innovate to ensure Wearparts tillage tools are among the toughest in the business, with a spec equal to or exceeding the leading OEM. We also offer custom hard-facing on selected ground-engaging components to make them last longer, even in compacted, rocky or abrasive soils.

Advanced fertilizer knives

Fertilizer application is a key input for farmers looking to maximize yields and in precision ag systems, the preference is usually to apply liquid or anhydrous fertilizers right at the point of need, i.e. under the soil as opposed to on the surface.  This has a number of benefits in that it prevents runoff and subsequent contamination of waterways while making nutrients directly available to the root systems of newly germinated seedlings.

Wearparts offers fertilizer knives to suit just about every toolbar, terrain and fertilizer type, and our products are specifically engineered to deliver precision application acre after acre, working in tandem with sensor and automation technology to make sure the optimal amount of fertilizer is delivered to the optimal depth, every time.

The future of precision farming

There’s little doubt that precision agriculture technology will continue to evolve, with the potential for more automated and robotic technology in particular offering farmers the opportunity to reduce labor costs, thus making farms more productive AND more profitable.

Whatever the future holds, however, it’s unlikely we’ll see significant changes to the mechanical processes farmers currently use to prepare for, plant, nurture and harvest their crops.  

With global OEMs like John Deere leading the way on the tech side, at Wearparts we’re committed to supporting farmers in a more practical way, through a commitment to quality, reliable components that offer superb compatibility with pioneering OEM technology while enhancing farming outcomes through increased precision and extended wear life.

Get in touch to learn more about our precision-engineered farming implements or find your nearest dealer here.

Stronger for Longer: 5 things that make Wearparts tools last longer

With economists predicting headwinds for agriculture in 2024 as a result of recent upward inflation and the looming threat of a global recession, it’s more important than ever for farmers to make smart choices that improve efficiency and protect profit margins.

At Wearparts, it’s always been our goal to supply aftermarket tillage and planting with enhanced precision and a longer wear life – and increasingly, farmers are recognising the benefits of investing in quality components capable of working harder for longer (spoiler alert: that doesn’t always mean the OEM).

Here’s a look at 5 ways we make sure our tillage and planting parts deliver precision, efficiency, and longevity for more profitable farming.

tillage part graphic

1. Patented Heat Treated Blades

To a non-farmer, a broken blade doesn’t sound like such a big deal – you just take the broken one off and replace it, right?  But a broken seed opener or tillage blade can have fairly major implications depending on how soon you notice the breakage, how quickly you can get a replacement to the field – and what the weather is doing in the meantime.

Wearparts seed openers from Forges de Niaux feature a patented heat treatment that gives each blade three different zones of hardness – they’re harder at the edge for increased durability where the blade touches the soil, but softer and more flexible towards the center of the blade so it can still flex if it hits a rock.

As a result, farmers experience a much longer wear life – often double the time of their OEM blades – with no breakages and no unpredictable downtime.

2. Custom Hardfacing

For tillage operations, you need implements with the ability to aggressively cut through compacted earth, breaking up clods, tearing through weeds and incorporating trash depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

As a result, tillage implements typically encounter heavy wear and tear along the leading edge.  Our custom hardfacing service means we can offer farmers enhanced durability on tools that are pulled through the subsoil, such as sweeps and fertilizer knives.

Hardfacing adds up to 30% more material to the leading edge using a cold welding process that prevents distortion, warping, and contamination of the base metal.  The resulting implement is therefore heavier and stronger and capable of completing more acres before needing to be replaced.

custom hardfacing image

3. Extra Life Blades

We can’t hardface our disc blades for obvious reasons, but our Extra Life rollable blades offer similar benefits in terms of wear life.  Typically, rollable blades aren’t made from boron steel because it’s not very malleable – but we’ve landed on a metallurgic composition that means our Extra Life blades have a high boron content for strength and durability, with enough malleability to facilitate the rolling process.   

Rolling simply means that when the blade gets worn, it can be pressed between a set of mechanical rollers that squeeze it out to a thin, sharp edge again – restoring lost blade diameter and compressing the metal so that the cutting edge is even harder and sharper after rolling than it was before.  This extends the life of the blade and gives the farmer additional cutting power. 

tillage tools in action

4. Self-Sharpening Technology

All blades get dull over time – but with clever engineering, it’s possible to significantly extend the useful life of blades like seed openers while ensuring precision performance for longer.

The way a blade wears depends on how it’s made – specifically its hardness and bevel profile.  Our Forges de Niaux blades are made to a unique Wearparts specification, so not only do they have that harder, heat treated edge, they also have a longer bevel – three-quarters of an inch as opposed to five-eighths.

That longer, shallower bevel means that the abrasive action of the blade turning through the soil sharpens the leading edge and ensures the pinch point remains intact for a clean, v-shaped trench.  Of course, the blades will eventually wear out – but depending on soil conditions, we’ve seen our customers get double the acreage from a set of seed openers that they were previously getting from their OEM blades, and the average based on field tests is 30% longer life than the closest competitor blade.

5. Testing & Continuous Improvement

Testing isn’t something we do to our blades to physically extend their life, but it’s a hugely important part of what makes Wearparts blades stand apart from the competition.  

We conduct extensive, in-house and field testing on our products in order to gather data and insights about how long they last, and how they wear.  This enables us to make adjustments during the manufacturing process that can significantly improve the durability of our tillage and planting tools.

But the benefits of testing don’t stop there.  Take our Guaranteed True™ promise, for example.  It’s based on our commitment to testing 100% of our seed opener assemblies before they leave our warehouse.  And we’re not talking about a quick check – we test to some of the strictest tolerances in the ag industry, specifically .050/1.27mm axial / .060/1.52mm radial for seed openers.  The absence of wobble and lope in our blades means they’re super precise, but also that they wear more evenly, which ultimately extends their life. 

Wearparts is different because we really care about farmers – as a family-run business, we know what it’s like when margins are tight so when you choose us, you’re choosing quality and integrity that’s built to make a tough job easier, and more profitable.  

Find your nearest Wearparts dealer here.

Maximize Your Harvest: Optimal Planting Conditions for Common US Crops

Across the Midwest, Great Plains and Great Lakes regions and into the southern US states, the arrival of March means that planting season is imminent – but an increasingly unpredictable climate means farmers are having to rely more on intuition and less on tradition when it comes to deciding the right time for planting.  

So what are the right conditions for planting America’s commonly grown crops – and how risky is it to start planting earlier than usual?  

In this blog, we’ll look at the ideal conditions for planting major crops like corn, soy, wheat, cotton and peanuts – when to plant depending on your region, the risks of planting crops early, and which soil conditions are needed to get seeds off to a flying start.


Where does corn grow best?

Corn thrives in warm, temperate climates and grows best in the famous ‘corn belt’ states – roughly covering Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska and eastern Kansas – but it’s grown a lot more widely than this, ie. the Delta States.

What soil conditions does corn prefer?

Corn is a hungry crop and prefers a loamy, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.  pH between 6.0 and 6.8 is ideal.  If your soil lacks organic matter or is compacted, it’s advisable to deploy tools for residue incorporation and soil aeration to maximize the seed’s chances of germinating successfully.  Consider cover crops in the off season to replenish nitrogen and prevent soil erosion.

Sandier soils can be planted earlier than heavier soils because they dry out quicker and therefore warm up faster in spring; however sandy soils also experience wider temperature fluctuations which can impact growth.

When should corn be planted?

In the Midwest, Great Plains and Lakes regions, corn planting typically begins in late April to early May once soil temperatures reach a minimum of 50°F at 2 inches deep. Further south, corn planting often begins earlier.

If the soil temperature is lower than 50°F, seeds cannot germinate and root development cannot take place.  The longer an ungerminated seed is exposed to cold temperatures, the greater the risk of chilling injury to the seed which can result in deterioration and subsequent weakness in the emerging seedling, making it more vulnerable to pests and disease.

What are the risks of planting corn early?

The biggest risk of planting corn early is that the young plants are very vulnerable to frost, so even during a warmer than usual spring, it’s advisable to wait until the risk of frost has passed before planting.

It’s also advisable to plant on a day with a warming trend in the 3-5 day forecast and no rain for 24 hours after planting – this is because when a dry seed absorbs cold water, it can injure the seed, causing the same sort of problems you’ll typically see if the soil conditions are too cold.

Even when the risk of frost has passed and average soil temperatures are optimal, beware of planting corn when there are wide swings in the soil temperature overall.  Corn seedlings germinate more consistently and grow strongly when the soil temperature remains stable – large fluctuations can cause seed failure and stunted growth leading to uneven crop stands, which is the biggest predicating factor of lower yields at harvest.


Where do soybeans grow best?

Soybeans grow well in the same sort of conditions as corn, and the bulk of the US soybean crop is grown in the same Midwestern states where warm soil temperatures and moderate rainfall promote successful growth of this important legume.

What soil conditions do soybeans prefer?

Soybeans prefer well-drained, fertile loamy soils with an ideal pH of 6.3 to 6.8.  They need slightly warmer soil temperatures than corn and should be planted when the soil reaches a minimum of 55°F, typically a few weeks after corn.

As a legume, soybeans are nitrogen fixing and therefore are often grown in a rotation with corn, which benefits from the soil-enhancing properties of a soybean crop.

Soybean seedlings will struggle to compete with weeds for light, nutrients and water, especially once the young plants being to increase in size.  Research suggests that competition from weeds when plants are small can have a big impact on crop yields later on, because the young plants put resources into growing tall in order to reach the light, rather than forming nodes.  You can explore tools for mechanical weed management here

When should soybeans be planted?

In more northerly regions, soybeans are typically planted a few weeks after corn in May or early June, once the soil temperature is consistently holding at 55°F or higher.

However, research shows that treated soybean seed can be sown earlier with less risk of seed injury due to cold – and that earlier sowing can have a positive effect on eventual crop yields.  It’s thought that when soybeans are planted earlier, the period between planting and flowering is significantly extended – and this gives the plant a bigger window for vegetative growth and the development of nodes, which eventually become pods, leading to a greater crop yield even when factors such as emergence rate and stand uniformity stay the same.

What are the risks of planting soybeans early?

Like corn, soybean crops are vulnerable to the effects of cold and particularly frost, which can affect the seeds – which may germinate unevenly or not at all – and also the young plant, which can be stunted or even killed off by spells of cold weather.

Spring Wheat

Where does spring wheat grow best?

Wheat is a cool weather crop that is most often sown in the US during the fall and harvested in the late spring or early summer of the following year.  Spring wheat is sown in the spring and harvested in the fall, and as a result it is typically only grown at higher latitudes where summer temperatures are lower – primarily in North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

What soil conditions are needed for spring wheat?

Wheat adapts well to a wide range of soils but thrives best in loamy, fertile soils with good drainage – it doesn’t like wet conditions.  Heavier and compacted soils will benefit from light tillage to promote soil aeration prior to planting.

When should spring wheat be planted?

Spring wheat benefits from sowing as early as possible, once soil temperatures are holding around 35°F and the 30-day forecast shows air temperatures consistently above freezing.  In spring wheat states, this typically occurs in early April.  Planting after mid-May is not advised unless average temperatures are significantly lower than usual.

Can you plant spring wheat too early?

Wheat is known as a tough crop because it keeps its growing point below the soil during early spring, which means it’s generally protected against frost until the plant is well-established.  Therefore, farmers aim to get spring wheat in the ground as early as possible once the soil has become workable.  The risk of an early spring is that the window for the earliest possible planting will be missed, especially if an early spring is followed by a warmer than average summer.

Cotton field (Turkey / Izmir). Agriculture concept photo.

Image: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vrLekN6Z5Pi2UZ2t4aOTUQOp_2T0po7G/view?usp=drive_link 


Where does cotton grow best?

Cotton requires a long, hot growing season and therefore is predominantly grown in the southern US, with Texas being the single largest producer, followed by Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas.

What soil conditions does cotton require?

Cotton prefers a nutrient-rich soil that is well-aerated and free draining with a pH between 5.8 and 8.4 ideally.  It is drought tolerant, but will benefit from irrigation during very dry spells.  Heavy and waterlogged soils are not ideal for growing cotton.

Young cotton plants lack competitiveness and therefore it’s important to plant into a weed-free environment, and eliminate emerging weeds that might out-compete the crop until the plants are well-established.  Check out tools for weed management here.

When is cotton usually planted?

The timing of cotton planting is important for rapid, uniform emergence of the young plants.  This offers protection against common pests, such as thrips, and ensures the whole crop hits the various stages of cotton growth – squaring, flowering and open boll – at the same time.

Cotton should not be planted before soil temperatures hit a minimum of 60°F.  The subsequent development of the plant is typically measured in heat units called DD60s – the amount of time the crop is exposed to 60-degree heat – instead of days.  Calculating heat units allows for the accurate prediction of how quickly a crop will develop and for this reason, it’s important to monitor overnight low temperatures as well as daytime highs.  As a rule of thumb, it takes around 50-60 heat units for a seed to emerge as a seedling, and ideally that plant would accumulate 6-10 units per day in the first week to get off to a good start.   Learn more here.

What are the risks of planting too early?

Cotton plants are notoriously susceptible to adverse environmental conditions, so encouraging uniform emergence and rapid early season growth is not only critical to establishing a uniform stand, but also builds resilience to other stressors like pests, weeds and drought.

If cotton is planted too early and then exposed to colder soil temperatures (or cold water from rainfall) during the critical germination period, chilling injuries to the seeds can prevent germination altogether, or lead to poor root formation that will likely affect the vigor of that plant throughout its life cycle.  Weak and slow-growing plants are more susceptible to insect damage and other diseases, and will reach maturity later than the healthy plants in the stand, leading to delays and inevitable losses at harvest.

Therefore it’s advisable to delay cotton planting until:

  • Soil temperature at 4-inch depth is 65° F or greater at 8am for at least three consecutive days.
  • The five-day outlook forecasts dry weather and a minimum of 26 DD60s.
  • Low temperatures are forecast to remain above 50°Ffor the following five days


Where are peanuts typically grown in the US?

Like cotton, peanuts need a warm climate to grow well and in the US, the majority of peanuts are grown in six states – Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

What soil conditions do peanuts need?

Peanuts are a groundnut and therefore they prefer sandy, well-drained soils with a loose structure that allows the pods to develop easily underground.  They are a legume, fixing their own nitrogen and therefore requiring less organic matter in the soil than other crops.  A soil pH of 5.9 to 7 is ideal for peanut growing.

When should peanuts be planted?

Peanuts like a warm climate and planting should be delayed until after the risk of frost has passed, when soil temperatures are holding at a minimum of 65°F.  In southern states, this is usually in later April or early May, but can sometimes be earlier.

Are there risks to planting peanuts too early?

The risk of planting peanuts too early is similar to other crops – germination cannot occur if the soil temperature is lower than 65°F and if seeds are exposed to cold, damp conditions while waiting for the soil to warm up, chilling injuries can occur that affect emergence and growth rates in the young crop.  

It’s important to note that planting too late can also hamper peanut growth due to rising temperatures.  If the soil gets too dry, seedlings won’t emerge – but irrigating the soil with cold water can cause damage to the seeds.  Warmer conditions combined with immature plants also increases the risk of late peanut plantings being affected by fungal diseases like southern blight.  Explore our range of peanut blades here.

Before you plant

Of course, understanding the right conditions and timings for planting a specific crop is just part of the preparation for spring planting.  Many other factors can impact on emerging seedlings including soil compaction and seed placement.  

At Wearparts, we provide a range of tillage and planting implements designed to give farmers maximum control over their planting processes in both no-till and conventional tillage systems, including advanced seed opener and gauge wheel technology for precision planting and reduced downtime. To find out more, get in touch!

10 essential preseason planter checks for better yields

Research shows that while skips and doubles tend to cancel each other out across the entire crop, late emerging plants are the thing that causes the most variability in crop yields – and they can almost always be traced back to planter faults, specifically wear and tear to moving parts.

A report published by the University of Idaho in 2019 stated: “Uniform planting remains one of the most critical steps in setting the stage for successful crop management. In corn, for example, a yield advantage of up to 20 bu/ac can be expected due to effective planter calibration. 

“Planter maintenance and calibration is one of the most straightforward and controllable of all crop production practices affecting farm profitability; every grower should fine-tune planting equipment annually to achieve the best plant stand.” 

With this in mind, here are 10 checks you should be performing in preseason to help ensure better stand uniformity – and increased yields – this year:

  1. Make sure the planter is level

It is essential to ensure the planter is level both front to back and side to side when in the field – not just a farm lane or yard. The drawbar and tongue should be level or slightly higher at the front than the back. This setup enables proper functioning of the parallel linkage and effective gathering by the closing wheels. Inadequate leveling can lead to poor closing and failed or delayed seed germination. Additionally, during the leveling process, it’s important to check tire pressure for accurate side-to-side leveling.

  1. Check the row cleaners 

Well-maintained floating row cleaners should turn freely and move up and down with ease. Stiff or jammed cleaners will fail to effectively remove residue ahead of the disc opener, which can have a detrimental effect on seed-to-soil contact. Check the row cleaners before you check the parallel arm linkages – give them a spin, and make sure bearings and bushings are tight.  Adjust or replace as necessary.

  1. Adjust the parallel arms

Parallel arms are crucial for maintaining the row unit’s correct position relative to the soil, so it’s vital to check for movement or wear that could lead to erratic seed placement.  Lift each arm to a horizontal position and try to rock it up and down and side to side.  Significant wear in the pins and bushings will lead to a lot of movement, which in turn will lead to chatter as the row unit moves through the field, causing inconsistent seed spacing.  If in doubt, replace one set and compare with the adjacent arm linkages before deciding whether to replace the rest.

  1. Inspect the disc openers

Sharp seed disc openers with minimal wobble and lope are essential for accurate and consistent seed placement.  Discs typically need to be replaced when they lose a half inch of diameter, or when they become dull – whichever comes first.  It’s also important to shim up your blades even if they don’t need to be replaced, ensuring the necessary contact point is being achieved as the blades turn – your planter or blade manufacturer will have information on the required specification.

  1. Check seed tubes

Seed tubes are usually fitted with a protector or insert that guards against wear. Check the bottom end of the tube for excessive wear of the sidewall, looking for adequate thickness but also any deformity of the wall that could cause the seed to ricochet, resulting in uneven spacing.  Replace any worn tubes.

  1. Inspect bearings and hubs

Check your disc blade bearings to ensure the hubs are firmly attached to the disc with no loose bolts, lateral wear or play in the housing.  Look for grease leaking out of the housing, which can indicate a loose attachment, or for any debris caught in the housing from last year.  Spin the blades and listen for any grinding or squealing noises that might indicate worn-out bearings inside the hub. 

  1. Give your gauge wheels a once over

Gauge wheel arms are extremely important for accurate seed placement so check that they are moving freely and not obstructed by debris or rust.  Also ensure that bushings are not worn out, leading to excessive lateral movement in the gauge wheel arm.  Check the wheel itself for wear to the rim or tire, and replace any cracked tires.  Adjust to make sure there’s good contact between the gauge wheel and the disc opener, to make sure dry soil can’t get into the furrow.  If you’ve run out of room to adjust the gauge wheel, it’s time to replace it!

  1. Check seed meters for wear

Seed meters should be checked to ensure doubles and skips are kept to an absolute minimum. For finger pickup meters, it’s recommended to have them professionally tested and adjusted using a sample of the actual seed you’ll be planting for accurate calibration.

  1. Center closing wheels

Closing wheels can easily go off center after a season of use, so you should inspect the wheel arms to ensure their catered and aligned before use.  Make sure the wheel itself doesn’t have too much lateral wear, as this can affect its ability to gather soil back over the furrow.  Make sure all bearings are in good condition and running smoothly. Consider whether the closing wheel you’re running is appropriate for the soil type.

  1. Do a final visual inspection

Conduct a thorough walk-around of the planter to check for hydraulic leaks, cylinder issues, and wear on electrical connections and wiring. Inspect chains, remove any debris or dust to make sure you’re not overlooking any damage or rust, and make sure all moving parts are adequately lubricated.

If your preseason checks are revealing excessive wear on ground-engaging parts like seed openers and gauge wheels, it’s worth considering whether your current or OEM specification is up to the necessary standards for your soil type.  Contact us today and learn how our advanced spec and quality construction can significantly extend the wear life of your components.

What Is No-Till Farming?

What is no-till farming? 

The term ‘no-till farming’ is one that has become very topical – trendy even – in recent years.  There’s a been a huge rise in the number of farmers curious about what no-till could bring to their soil, their yields, and their farm overheads.

But in fact, the concept of no-till has been around as long as farming itself, since the first human poked a hole in the soil with a stick, and dropped in a seed.  As a farming practice, it’s been around in the US since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s – and has become increasingly popular since after WW2.

But what exactly is no-till?  Is it one farming practice – or many?  How many farmers are doing it?  And what does the future of no-till look like?  In this blog, we’ll explore the history, the mechanics and the state – current and projected – of no-till farming in the US.

First things first: what is no-till?

No-till farming is fairly self-explanatory – it’s a farming method that involves not tilling the soil.  That means no plowing, no ripping, no harrowing – nothing that disturbs the soil structure.  When it comes to planting time, seeds are planted through the residue of last year’s crop using seed disc openers to cut a v-shaped trench that is closed at the back of the planter, and the emerging seeds grow up through the residue.

When was no-till first introduced?

The very first farmers used no-till systems.  It wasn’t until the invention of the plow in the 1700s that tillage as we know it today became commonplace – in fact, American farmers were initially suspicious of the plow, believing that it poisoned the soil and caused weeds to proliferate.

A soil crisis

By the early 1800s, the idea of horse- or ox-drawn plows had caught on and farmers discovered that by tilling the soil, they could plant seed more quickly and get rid of unwanted plants including grass and weeds from their crop fields.  By the early 1900s, rising demand for wheat led to a change in US agricultural policy that rewarded farmers for planting larger and larger acreages, especially in the prairie grasslands of the Midwest.  When drought hit in 1930, vast swathes of land were turned into the ‘Dust Bowl’, with millions of tons of topsoil lost and large parts of the region rendered useless for farming.  

After that, farmers realised that overplowing of the land could cause more harm than good.  In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the Soil Erosion Service (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) to develop and promote ‘new’ farming techniques – including no-till – to tackle the problem of soil erosion.

How does no-till benefit the soil?

No-till benefits the soil by leaving its natural structures intact.  Soils are bound together by organic matter, plant roots, and a complex network of pores and channels that allow water to infiltrate to deeper levels.  They are also teeming with life, including larger organisms like earthworms and burrowing insects, and microscopic organisms like bacteria and fungi.  These organisms serve to break down organic matter in the soil, like the foliage from dead plants, and convert it into fertilizer for future plant growth.

When the soil is tilled, this delicate ecosystem is disturbed.  The soil’s natural structure is destroyed, living organisms die off and organic matter is much slower to break down, so the soil’s natural nutrients get depleted more quickly.  The soil loses its ability to effectively store moisture so it becomes very dry, or completely waterlogged depending on climatic conditions – but both cases lead to erosion and soil losses either due to wind or flooding.

No-till systems effectively allow the soil to look after itself, preventing erosion and preserving nutrients for enhanced soil quality and fertility.

Are there different types of no-till system?

No-till is a system on its own, but it’s part of a wider range of farming practices often referred to as ‘conservation tillage’.  These methods (for example strip tillage or mulch-till) are aimed at reducing the amount of tillage required, leaving some of the soil structure intact or rotating the parts that are tilled from one year to the next.

How does no-till benefit the farmer?

Aside from the obvious benefits of healthier, more fertile soils on crop yields, no-till systems have a number of labor and cost benefits for farmers.

The workload with no-till is less because the farmer doesn’t need to make multiple passes through the field, first tilling the soil or plowing in residue, and then planting the seed.  This means lower labor costs, and more time to spend on other farming tasks.  No-till systems also typically have lower machinery and fuel costs – often the only equipment required is a planter, where conventional tillage farmers may use a number of implements to prepare a seed bed before planting.

How many farmers in the US are running no-till systems?

Data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture shows that 37% of tillage acreage in the US is no-tilled – an increase of 2.4% from the previous Census – that equates to 104 million acres under no-till.  According to the USDA, the highest percentage of no-till acres are wheat (45%) followed by corn and soybeans.

What is the future for no-till?

Research clearly shows that the number of farmers practicing no-till is growing year-on-year, and this growth is expected to continue.  Increased global population and the pressures of a changing climate will mean farmers need to preserve every ounce of fertile soil, and no-till could prove key to this.  

A recent study by AGU found that soil is currently being eroded across Midwestern states at a rate of 1mm per year – then modeled what the situation could look like if all farmers adopted no-till.  The study found that is every tillage farmer switched to a sustainable method, soil erosion could be completely halted within 100 years, preventing the loss of 9 billion metric tons of fertile soil.

There’s also an interesting debate around whether no-till will be replaced by a broader term like ‘conservation agriculture’ that combines principles of no-till with other conservation farming methods like cover cropping and crop rotation, creating a holistic system that works in harmony with nature to maximize crop yields.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in the principles of no-till agriculture and would like to learn more about how it could benefit your farm or those of your customers, we recommend a trip to the National No-Till Conference taking place in Indianapolis in January. 

As a title sponsor, Wearparts will be in attendance and there will be opportunities to hear from speakers with advanced expertise in the field of no-till as well as hearing from our sales team about how Wearparts tillage and planting parts are specifically tailored for no-till applications.  Registration for the event is now open – for all other queries, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Defeat Downtime: How to Winterize Farm Machinery

If mild fall weather is lulling you into a false sense of security, be warned: winter in the US corn belt often arrives fast. As temperatures prepare to plunge, it’s a good time to get ahead on winterizing machinery and equipment.

A little effort now can pay dividends come the spring – not just by making sure your machinery is primed and ready for action when planting season starts, but by helping you avoid unnecessary downtime and costs.  Let’s take a look at some priority tasks you should be completing before the winter freeze arrives.

Clean and store farm machinery

Dried on mud, crop residues and other debris accumulated during harvest, fall tillage and other farming operations should now be cleaned off of machines that won’t be used until the spring.  You might wonder what’s the harm in leaving dry residue alone – but mud and chaff can trap moisture on surfaces that speeds up corrosion, and also prevents you from properly inspecting your equipment to ensure it’s in good condition.  

A good wash down in the late fall might seem like a vanity project but it’s actually just good farm sense, helping you nip rust issues in the bud and extending the lifespan of your equipment.  

Inspect engine compartments, belts and pulleys to make sure they’re clear of any plant residue that could catch fire when the machine is started up again in spring.

Once cleaned, ideally planters, harrows, chisel plows and other equipment that isn’t needed over winter should be stored in a weatherproof and rodent-proof barn to minimize the risk of damage occurring during idle periods.  If space is an issue, consider using custom tarp to offer some protection from the elements.

Tractor ready for winterizing on a barren corn field

Look out for lubrication

Cold temperatures increase the viscosity of lubricants as well as causing metals to shrink or constrict.  As a result, moving parts that are not adequately lubricated before winter sets in can seize up completely in cold weather, leading to unnecessary downtime and sometimes even expensive parts replacements to get them moving again.

Prevent this from happening by carrying out a lubrication check on all your farm equipment in the late fall – change to a lower viscosity engine oil if you live in a particularly cold region, apply grease where required, and replace sealed components like bearing hubs if you suspect they’ve reached the end of their useful life.  This will ensure your machinery is ready to roll when the temperature starts to rise again.

Precision-engineered flange component with threaded center and bolt holes for machinery assembly

Coolant, fuel and other fluid checks

Winterizing fluids is important for machinery that will be stored in the colder months but also for machines you’ll continue to use in winter.  

Check the antifreeze levels in the cooling system and also test the freeze point of the fluids to ensure the correct water to antifreeze ratio – vital to stop engines from freezing up in cold weather but also for making sure that water doesn’t corrode the engine interior when the machine is sitting idle.

Bright yellow coolant reservoir cap prominently marked on a farm machinery engine

Engine powered equipment that won’t be used in winter should be stored with a full fuel tank – this stops condensation from forming during cold spells, which can contaminate the fuel with water when there’s a thaw.

Hydraulic fluids, transmission and engine oil should all be changed to a product with appropriate cold weather viscosity – run the machine for a short period after any fluid change to ensure the new fluid is circulated into the system.

Winter battery care

Idle batteries will discharge at a rate of 1% per day – and even faster in freezing weather – due to parasitic drain.  This natural process can also lead to sulfation of the battery which means that it can’t be recharged due to a buildup of sulfur on its lead plates. 

Maintain battery health by disconnecting and/or removing batteries and storing them in a warmer location – ideally keeping them charged using a smart charger that can detect when a top-up is required.  If this isn’t possible, aim to start and run your machinery on a regular basis to prevent the battery from discharging too much.

Close-up of a mechanic's hands assessing the condition of a used piece of machinery

Winter tire maintenance

After a long season in the field, there’s a good chance your vehicle tires are showing signs of wear or a loss of pressure – so now is a great time to inspect, replace or re-pressurize tires.  Underinflated tired will result in rapid wear and sidewall damage while overinflation can increase the risk of perishing, blowouts and soil compaction.

Of course, if you’ll be using a snow plow or blower, you need to make sure your tires have adequate tread to grip in tricky conditions – don’t forget to make sure snow chains and other equipment is ready to go.

Snow-covered tractor with plow attachment clearing winter roads during a heavy snowfall

Essential electrical checks for farm vehicles

Checking vehicle electrics before winter sets in is another essential maintenance task – not least because darker, shorter days depend on headlights and illuminated instruments being in full working order.  

For other equipment that will be stored over winter, it’s a good idea to make sure all bulbs and electrical connections are functional and safe to reduce the risk of electrical fires and ensure you can hit the ground running when spring planting rolls around.

Agricultural equipment in operation

Maintaining tillage & planting parts

Before you store equipment away for winter, check that all wear parts – discs, blades, tines etc – are in good condition with enough life remaining to get you through the upcoming season.  Check the alignment on coulters and chisels so that when you do bring this equipment back into use, you don’t have to waste valuable time on these checks and adjustments – once the sun comes out in spring, you’ll be good to go!  

Don’t forget that our Maximum Duty seed opener blades carry our ‘Guaranteed True®’ promise – we test every assembly before it leaves our warehouse so you don’t have to.

Spare Parts Inventory

Even with the best maintenance and preparation in the world, breakdowns will happen. Winter is the ideal time to make sure you have supplies of replacement parts for your equipment so that if you do hit a bump in spring, you can quickly and easily carry out any necessary repairs and get back to work quickly.  

Our Spring Preseason Promo runs from fall through New Year each year and offers farmers the chance to stock up on essentials for spring planting at discounted prices.

Enhance efficiency next spring

Regular maintenance combined with selecting the best quality tillage and planting parts you can afford is a tried-and-true way to enhance agronomic efficiency at any time of year. 

Wearparts offers farmers a genuine alternative to OEM parts with the benefit of up to 30% extra wear life – check out what our customers say about us, or find your nearest dealer

Post-Harvest Soil Optimization: Fall Tillage and Tools

Depending on where you’re located in the US, your harvest season is perhaps just beginning, well underway, or just about wrapped for 2023.  That means it’s time to focus on post-harvest and what you can do now to ensure a more successful crop yield in 2024.  

Of course, you may be preparing to plant cover crops as part of this strategy, but even if you’re not, there are some important steps to take now that can help make sure your soil is in peak condition come spring planting.  Let’s take a look at how to optimise your fall tillage for better results next year.

Why fall tillage?

In no-till systems, the soil won’t be touched after crops are harvested.  But the vast majority of US farmers will carry out some form of tillage in the fall, even if it’s very light or shallow.  Extremes of heat, drought and rainfall in different locations across the states means that after a prolonged growing season, the upper layers of soil can benefit from some light tillage to break up the crust, reduce compaction and manage residue or weeds.

Tractor engaging in autumn-chisel plowing beneath a cloudy sky

What kind of fall tillage is right for my farm?

Unless you’re new to farming, you’ll already have a good idea of what type of tillage you need to counteract any soil problems that have arisen over summer, or that are likely to occur in the winter months.  For instance, if you know a particular part of the farm is prone to aggressive weeds, you’ll want to address those before they get established.  If you have a field where the soil has become very baked, you might want to break that up so that fall rains can sink in rather than run off.

But if you want to get really technical about which fall tillage method is right for your soil – and even which tillage tools to use – a great way to find out is to use a soil compaction probe or penetrometer.

Man standing in a freshly plowed field after harvest, demonstrating fall tillage techniques for soil optimization

What is a soil penetrometer used for?

A soil penetrometer is a probe with a handle and a gauge for measuring pressure (PSI).  It is used to determine whether the soil in a particular field or area has a compaction layer, and if so, how deep that layer runs.  

The instructions for using a penetrometer may vary from model to model but the basic premise is that any soil structure requiring 300PSI or more of pressure to push the probe in is said to be compacted.

The probe has a sharp tip that is inserted into the soil and manually pushed down.  When the pressure reaches 300PSI, the depth is noted.  The user then continues to push the probe into the soil until the pressure required drops to less than 300PSI, and this depth is also noted.  The difference between the two measurements is the depth of the compaction layer.

Once you’ve determined where your soil compaction is, how deep it is, and which crops you want to grow there next, you can make an informed decision about how deeply and aggressively you need to till the soil.

How much tillage do I need?

The penetrometer simulates root penetration, which declines exponentially above 150PSI of compaction, limiting a crop’s ability to take up moisture and nutrients from the soil and therefore inhibiting growth.

The goal of your tillage operations is to reduce soil compaction to less than 150PSI within the root zone of the crop you are planning to grow.  For shallow-rooted crops like lettuce, you may only need 12 inches of non-compacted soil, so a deeper compaction layer may not need to be disturbed.

For deep-rooted crops like corn, which can penetrate as far as 4 feet, some surface compaction can be easily resolved without the need for aggressive, deep tillage blades – the developing roots will do the rest on their own.

Information about the severity and depth of soil compaction should be weighed against other factors, particularly soil moisture – ideally 24 hours after a saturating rain or irrigation cycle.  If the soil is very dry, the PSI reading will be much higher and you could end up performing unnecessary tillage to resolve a problem that could be fixed with water.

Close-up view of post-harvest soil optimization and blades on a gravel ground

What type of tillage tools should I use to reduce compaction?

Depending on the severity and depth of your soil’s compaction layer, you can select tillage tools to address it with the least amount of soil disturbance.

Leaving the soil undisturbed has benefits for reducing future compaction because it preserves the natural structure – the plant material, earthworm burrows, pores and biodiversity that enable soil to move moisture and nutrients around. 

There are options for shallow, medium and deep tillage as well as options for how much you want to displace the soil, which we’ll explore below:

Shallow tillage tools

High-speed compact discs

High-speed compact discs are usually mid-shallow concavity blades that penetrate the soil by up to 12 inches, but more typically around 8-10 inches.  The machinery is designed to break up surface compaction and colds of earth in a single, high-speed pass.


Cultivators are also used for shallow or secondary tillage, either to remove weeds or to create a fine surface tilth for seed sowing.  Cultivators can be fitted with a variety of tools including ripper points, disc blades and sweep blades (also known as shovels).


A sweep or shovel is a wide, footed blade with a sharp nose and one or two ‘wings’ extending out either side.  The point of the blade penetrates the soil at a shallow depth of around 10-15cm and the wings are dragged through parallel to the soil surface, slicing weeds just below the surface and breaking up the hardpan if present.

Vertical tillage blades

Vertical tillage blades are typically between 20 and 24 inches in diameter so they penetrate between 10 and 12 inches deep.  When the blades are flat and smooth, they don’t move the top layer of soil sideways or cause it to turn over. 

Coulter blades

Coulter blades are typically run in front of deeper tillage blades to chop residue or soften the soil, but they can be used for shallow tillage.  They start from around 15 inches in diameter which gives around 7 inches of soil penetration.  Wavy or fluted coulter blades have a more aggressive action which helps to break up clumps of residue or clods of soil on the surface.

Close-up of a red 'Excelerator' tillage equipment by KUHN Krause working in the field, turning over soil after harvest

Medium tillage tools

Medium-depth tillage can be carried out by using tillage tools that are adjustable – so for example, chisel plow spikes are normally a deep tillage tool, but their depth can be raised so they don’t go as deep. 

Likewise some shallow tillage tools, like vertical tillage blades, can have a more aggressive action if you choose wavy or fluted blades that cause more lateral soil displacement.

Deep tillage tools

Chisel Plow / Subsoiler

A chisel plough is a heavy duty machine that drags sharp points called chisel plow spikes down into the soil and then pulls them along underneath the surface at a maximum depth of around 18 inches.

Chisel ploughs are specifically designed to address compaction of the subsoil without disturbing residue on the surface.  They are most often used in dry regions, where they can help to aerate the soil and facilitate moisture infiltration.

Disc blades

Disc blades are available in a wide range of depths, typically up to 42 inches but sometimes even larger, and can penetrate up to 24 inches below the soil surface

The edge of a disc blade may be smooth or notched to aid the cutting action of the blade and prevent clogging with mud or residue.  Disc blades often have a concave profile, like a shallow bowl – the more concave the disc, the more aggressive the tillage.

The dished shape has a similar effect to a traditional moldboard plow, turning over the top layer of soil as it passes through the field.

Get ready for fall tillage

At Wearparts we manufacture some of the highest quality, most durable tillage tools on the planet, with options to fit all popular OEM machinery brands.

For advice on the best tillage tools for your soil conditions this fall, or to locate your nearest Wearparts dealer, get in touch.

Earth-Friendly Farming: How No-Till Boosts Crops and Captures Carbon

Farmers have long known that healthy soil makes for healthier and more abundant crops.  This is important because of our need to produce enough food globally for a growing population, within a limited land mass.

But food production isn’t the only thing motivating an increased focus on soil health.  Increasingly, we’re learning about the soil’s ability to capture and sequester carbon, making it one of the most significant prospective tools in the fight to slow global warming.

So how does it work – how does soil capture and hold onto carbon?  And how can farmers meet growing demand for crops while still protecting this delicate natural process?  Let’s take a look.

What is carbon?

Carbon is the fourth most abundant chemical element in the universe.  It’s the building block for life as we know it, because it has the ability to form complex molecules like proteins and DNA.  Earth is a ‘closed system’ when it comes to carbon – we have a fixed amount, that never changes.  

How is carbon stored and released?

Most carbon on Earth is stored in the atmosphere and in rock, but a lot is also stored in living matter including live organisms and vegetation.  Plants and other organisms are always exchanging carbon with the atmosphere – this is called the carbon cycle.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants as they photosynthesise.  This carbon is then stored in the leaves, trunks and roots of the plants or trees.  Living things eat the plants, and convert them into energy in a process called respiration, which generates CO2 as a waste product – this can be exhaled during breathing, or expelled in the form of other C02-based gases like methane, and goes back into the atmosphere.

When plants and other organisms die, the carbon they were made of is released as they decompose, and becomes part of the soil.  Decomposed vegetable matter from plants can eventually, after very long periods of time, be transformed by immense pressure into rocks and even fossil fuels, like coal. 

When we dig up or burn these fuels, large amounts of carbon get released into the atmosphere.  Carbon is also released when we remove vegetation, when we burn trees for fuel, and when we till the soil.

Why is carbon bad?

In short, it isn’t.  Without carbon, life on earth couldn’t exist.  Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere acts like insulation, retaining heat from the sun so that Earth doesn’t get too cold.  But too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere intensifies this warming effect.  

Scientists estimate that since humans started burning fossil fuels during the industrial revolution, the average surface temperature on earth has risen by 1.8°F.  They are concerned that too much warming could have serious consequences for Earth such as a rise in sea levels, habitat loss and extreme weather patterns that could affect farming and food supplies.  

Under the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement, the global goal is to reduce carbon emissions and keep the average surface temperatures at no more than 3.7°F above pre-industrial levels.

How does the soil trap (sequester) carbon?

Many natural environments like forests, wetlands, peatlands and grasslands are referred to by scientists as ‘carbon sinks’ because they trap and store huge amounts of carbon deep underground.

During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air. They use sunlight and special cells called chloroplasts to convert it into glucose, which they use to help them grow, and oxygen, which they release into the atmosphere.  The carbon molecules remain stored inside the plant’s structures and when the plant decays, they are typically transferred to the soil.  

As plant lifecycles continue, old plants die and new ones germinate, feeding off the decaying plant matter in the soil.  In the upper levels, some carbon will always be exchanged between the soil and the plants or the atmosphere, but if the soil itself is left undisturbed, the stored carbon eventually percolates down to lower and lower levels where it can be locked away or sequestered for much longer.

Does carbon make soil more fertile?

Yes.  Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter and helps give soil its structure, water retention capacity, and fertility.  Soils rich in organic matter can support complex ecosystems including fungi and micro-organisms that are vital for strong, healthy crops.  These soils will have a defined structure that allows them to absorb and retain moisture, and move nutrients around effectively.  As well as supporting strong plant growth, this means that carbon-rich soils are less prone to flooding, wind erosion and other forms of degradation.

Carbon & no-till farming

Increased understanding of how the soil traps carbon and why this can be beneficial for farmers has led to a rise in the popularity of conservation tillage, particularly no-till.

For generations, farmers believed that the best way to keep soil healthy and get good yields was to churn it up before each planting to make it very friable, and apply lots of fertilizers – but in recent times, that thinking has begun to change.  It’s becoming accepted that while fertilizers may always be needed to support intensive farming regimes, less tillage helps the soil to retain these nutrients as well as moisture.

What is no-till farming?

No-till farming is the gold standard of conservation tillage because, as the name suggests, it’s built on the principle of not tilling the soil.  In no-till, the previous crop residue is left in place to decompose and a system of crop and potentially livestock rotation is used to manage soil nutrition in addition to the application of fertilizers.  

During planting, seed openers are used to cut a trench right through the previous year’s trash, into which the seed is planted and covered over with as little soil disturbance as possible.  This means that as much of the carbon as possible contained in the soil and in the plant matter is left in place, offering the greatest opportunity for long-term carbon sequestration.  Here are some benefits of no-till for farmers and the environment:

Soil structure is preserved

Plant roots, pores and capillaries in the soil structure are preserved so that the soil can more easily move moisture and nutrients around.  Fertilizers and rainwater are absorbed more readily, reducing the risk of soil degradation or erosion even in intensive farming cycles.

Micro-organisms flourish

Soil is full of micro-organisms from insects and worms down to microscopic fungi and bacteria that can be beneficial for crops.  When we don’t turn the soil over as in conventional tillage systems, these organisms can thrive – ensuring crops grow strongly, and capturing even more carbon in the soil.

Water is conserved

One of the biggest benefits of no-till is that it prevents loss of moisture from the soil.  Even when surface layers appear dry and cracked, in no-till systems you typically find that the subsoil stays moist for much longer than in conventional systems.  This can make crops much more resilient to drought.

Agronomic efficiency

Farmers running no-till systems can save significantly on fuel because they don’t till or cultivate the soil before planting or during the growing season.  They also save money on tillage parts and machinery.  No-till farming is a very time-efficient way of working, although it does require some careful thought and planning to make the system work effectively.

Other conservation tillage methods like strip-till, ridge-till and mulch-till are less effective at retaining soil structure and preventing carbon release, but they do help to slow the process down which has benefits for farm yields and the environment alike.

Looking for tools for your conservation tillage system?

Wearparts offers a wide range of tillage and planting parts compatible with all popular machinery brands and designed to give your no-till or conservation tillage system the edge.  Discover 30% longer wearlife and guarantees against breakage for efficient planting and less downtime – find a dealer today!

Farm Machinery Maintenance: Your 5-Step Summer Checklist

The middle to end of summer on the farm is a time for watching and waiting.  Crops are nearing maturity and almost ready for harvest, there’s little to be done by way of weed management or soil conditioning – so this is a perfect time for farmers to get on with some essential farm machinery maintenance.

Getting ahead on machinery maintenance now means harvest time and subsequent fall planting will be smooth sailing – and by the time winter bites, your equipment will be tucked up warm in the barn, ready to swing back into action in the spring.  Ensuring your farm machinery is kept in good working order can also extend its lifespan.

With that goal in mind, here are 5 essential farm machinery maintenance jobs to carry out during these quieter days of summer:

1. Analyze fluid quality

A bit like a blood test for humans, analyzing the fluids – like engine oil or hydraulic fluid – in your machines is a way to assess their health and ultimately, their lifespan.  Since you probably topped up your fluids right before the planting season, having them analysed midcycle is a great way to know if the products you’re using to lubricate moving parts are holding up under your specific farm conditions, and whether they’ll be good throughout harvest and fall planting before needing to be topped up again.

And it’s not just the fluid itself – if a component is contaminated or starting to fail, the evidence will be there in the fluid long before you notice any visible or audible signs of a problem.  Having your fluids tested is a valuable tool for identifying potential issues before they cause problems in the field. 

Fluid analysis laboratories are widely available and even in remote locations, you can have your fluid samples analysed by mail.  Most labs will provide free, easy-to-use kits for submitting a sample and the overall process is both simple to do, and inexpensive.

Summer Farm Machinery Maintenance Checklist - analyse fluid quality image

2. Check and adjust tires

You’ve heard the saying ‘no foot, no horse’? Well the same holds true for farm machinery and tires – and paying attention to the condition and pressure of your tires now can pay dividends for soil health later on.

Checking for punctures and signs of wear is a given – but overlooking tire pressure can undo years of careful soil structure management, so it’s vital to ensure that the pressure is right not just for your tractor, but also for the loads it will be pulling.

Manufacturers do provide information about the weight of their machines and components so it’s possible to do an ‘on paper’ weight calculation, but by far the best way to know the loaded and unloaded weight of your equipment is to borrow a platform scale and weigh it.  Accurately knowing the weight of your tractor and attached implements not only means you can ballast accurately for best traction, it also means you can select the right tire and pressure for your load/speed requirements. 

Using the lowest tire pressure possible for your required load and speed ensures minimal soil compaction without causing undue wear and tear on tires or using too much fuel.  These calculations may seem time consuming, but you only need to do them once – then you can simply refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines and adjust tire pressure for soil conditions in the future.

3. Inspect chains and belts

Belts and chains are vital components for power transfer in farm machinery, but over time they can stretch or even slip, causing reduced efficiency and potential breakdowns.  It’s important to perform regular checks on these components so you can spot any problems early, and make the call on whether to replace a belt mid-season, or wait until harvest/fall planting are complete.

Summer Farm Machinery Maintenance Checklist - inspect chains and belts image

4. Check cooling systems

Engine coolant is often referred to as antifreeze, but it’s actually just as important in hot weather as in cold.  Most newer tractors are liquid cooled which means they use a coolant fluid, circulated throughout the engine by a water pump to a radiator, where heat generated during engine combustion is transferred from the fluid to the air with the help of powerful fans.  The cooled fluid is then re-circulated to prevent overheating when the engine is under load. This process happens over and over again and every time it does, a proportion of the protective additives in the coolant are consumed, reducing its quality over time.  If the coolant is not refreshed or replaced, this loss of protective additives can lead to corrosion and electrolysis in the engine.

It’s important to ensure all components of the cooling system including the radiator, radiator cap, fan system and pump drive belts are kept clean and in good order.  You should also select the right type of coolant for your machine based on the manufacturer’s guidelines, and make sure levels are kept topped up – taking care to follow the correct concentrate to water ratios.  

NEVER mix coolants containing propylene glycol with ethylene glycol-based formulas, as this can cause a buildup of harmful deposits inside the engine.

5. Service air conditioning systems

Whether it’s harvesting in late summer heat or planting in strong spring sunshine, nothing gets a farmer hot and bothered like an overheating tractor cab.  Servicing your air conditioning system regularly means you’ll stay cool when it counts.

All air conditioning systems will leak refrigerant very slowly, so they’ll need re-gassing periodically by a specialist.  The system should be drained, cleaned and re-gassed annually for optimal performance.  Don’t be tempted to put this off, especially if you notice a drop in cooling power, because as with all fluids, a reduction in the quality of your refrigerant as it ages can cause expensive damage to the AC system as a whole.

In between professional services, you can ensure your system stays on point by keeping the cabin filters and condenser coils clean.  Make sure all hoses are flowing freely and not perished, cracked or damaged by rodents.  Over winter, it’s a good idea to turn on your AC for 15 minutes once a month, to prevent perishable parts such as hoses and o-rings from drying out in cold weather.

Replacement tillage and planting parts

It goes without saying that a part of farm machinery maintenance is regular inspection and replacement of ground engaging components and other wear parts.  If you’re satisfied that all routine maintenance tasks are under control and you’re looking to have some new tillage or planting parts on hand ahead of the new season, locate your nearest Wearparts dealer!