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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!

Crop residue management: – Essential tillage tools for the job

As farming practices go, crop residue management is a relatively new concept.  While many aspects of tillage farming have barely changed in centuries (save for advances in technology), it wasn’t until the 1960s that farmers began to make the connection between their operations and the erosion or degradation of the soil.

This eventually led to the adoption of no-till farming practices and other conservative tillage methods, including the idea of using crop residues to protect and nourish the soil.

A large percentage of farmers now practise some form of residue management on their land, and as a result, these methods – and the tools to support them – have become much more refined.  Let’s take a look at the different types of residue management, and what’s available to help farmers manage these processes more efficiently.

What is residue management?

When we talk about residue management, we are usually referring to the deliberate management or use of leftover stalks, stems, leaves and other vegetation left behind when a crop such as corn, barley or wheat is harvested.

However, residue management can also refer to cover crops – crops that are planted for the sole purpose of protecting the soil.  

In both cases, the vegetation plays an important role in protecting the soil from wind erosion, promoting moisture absorption and preventing surface water runoff, and enhancing the soil structure together with its roots. 

At  a certain point in the life cycle of these plants, they will then be plowed into the soil where they decompose, enriching the soil with organic matter and nutrients.

Sometimes, chopped residue such as straw is left lying on the soil surface.  This process is called mulching.  Mulch is often used as cover for emerging seedlings, protecting them from extreme weather until they become established.  The mulch decays over time, providing organic matter for the soil.

What are the main types of residue management?

Residue management is carried out as part of a wider tillage system.  In a no-till system, more than 30% of the soil is covered by residue.  In conservation tillage – such as strip-till or ridge-till, between 15% and 30% is covered.  Conventional tillage systems leave less than 15% of the soil covered by residue at any given time.

No-till systems

No-till farming involves planting crops directly into undisturbed soil, with residues from the previous crop left behind to protect emerging seedlings and maintain the structure of the soil.  

No-till systems depend on the use of very precise, sharp planting blades that can effectively open a clean furrow by slicing down through surface trash.  If the blades are dull or not angled correctly, hairpinning can occur.  This is when trash gets pushed down into the bottom of the furrow, allowing air to get trapped and preventing good seed-to-soil contact, which can lead to poor germination and disease.

Conservation tillage

Also known as reduced tillage, conservation tillage is the collective term for a number of different practices that aim to retain more surface residue for the benefit of the soil.  Farmers may use one of the following processes:


Strip till is where the land is tilled in alternating strips.  Where crops are to be planted, the residue is plowed in.  But between rows, the soil is left undisturbed with the residues intact. The following year, the strips are switched over so that each planting cycle, half the field is left undisturbed. Strip tillage is popular on challenging soils where no-till might not be practical.  The process itself is usually carried out using a strip-till rig with a combination of ripper points, coulter wheels, fertilizer knives and other soil conditioning blades.


Ridge tillage is often used for sloping sites, but can be implemented in almost any conditions.  The land is initially tilled to create evenly-spaced ridges that sit 4-6 inches above the level of the soil, with furrows in between.  The tops of the ridges are more aerated and warm more quickly than the furrows.  Crops are planted into the ridge, which gives them an advantage over any weed seeds that germinate in the furrow.  

Following harvest and over winter, residue from the crop is left on the surface.  In spring, only the tops of the ridges are tilled and reshaped before planting.  Ridge tillage has the disadvantage of needing specialist ridge-tillage machinery for cultivation and planting.  Residue on the ridge top may be removed altogether using a ridge cleaner, or chopped using blades set to a very shallow depth – sharpness is vital so as not to damage the shape of the ridge.


Mulch tillage is another technique for residue management.  Instead of plowing residue into the soil, in mulch tillage the subsoil is tilled using deep implements like chisel plows to break up compaction, while the surface of the soil – and any vegetation or stubble on it – is left relatively undisturbed.  Mulch till is regarded as a conservation technique because it leaves at least 30% of the soil surface covered by trash; however it involves tilling 100% of the subsoil, which can still leave the soil vulnerable to wind and water erosion.

Cover cropping

Cover cropping is also sometimes referred to as ‘green manure’.  Cover crops are planted with the sole purpose of covering the soil, rather than as a cash crop for harvesting.  The most common cover crops are legumes, which are part of the pea family – these include alfalfa, peas, beans and lentils.  Legumes are known for their high nitrogen levels, which they fix into the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.  Legume crops also help to eliminate soil bacteria and enhance biodiversity, forming valuable ecosystems that help to further enhance soil quality in the long run.

Cover crops are usually plowed into the soil before the plants reach maturity, although sometimes they are used as fodder for grazing animals who eat the vegetation and then condition the soil with their waste.

What are the benefits of residue management?

The benefits of effective residue management have both environmental and financial benefits for the farmer.

Erosion prevention

As previously discussed, the primary benefit of crop residue management is its ability to protect the soil from wind and water erosion.  The presence of stubble on the soil surface prevents dry soil from blowing or being washed away during extreme weather conditions, especially in winter.

Moisture retention

However, crop residue management also has important benefits for overall soil quality, too.  Leaving residue behind after a crop is harvested means that the roots of the plant are still intact, which preserves the soil structure and prevents it from becoming compacted.  This means that moisture can penetrate more easily, and can be stored in the pores of the soil which reduces surface waterlogging and runoff.

Nutrient cycling

As the residue decays, the nutrients stored within it are released back into the soil.  Fibrous material decomposes into humus, which is a rich source of nourishment for subsequent crop plantings.  Humus-rich soils retain heat more effectively, so they warm up faster in spring and stay warmer for longer during the growing season.

Weed suppression

While decaying crop residues can promote growth, stalky crop residues on the surface can help to inhibit the growth of weeds by preventing seeds from germinating.

Sustainability and efficiency

Crop residue management systems like no-till and strip-till also have environmental and financial benefits.  The less the soil is disturbed, the more carbon it can sequester, which is one way farmers can help slow down climate change.  Reduced tillage systems can often open a furrow, fertilize and plant in a single pass, which vastly reduces the cost per acre and maximizes farm productivity.

What planting and tillage tools are used for residue management?

Crop residue management requires the use of a range of different tillage tools and implements depending on the system being used.

  1. Seed opener blades are used in all systems for opening a seed furrow and planting the seed.  In no-till systems, it’s vital that seed opener blades run true and stay sharp so they can effectively slice through trash and open a clean furrow with no hairpinning.  Wearparts seed opener blades are triple heat treated with a longer bevel that stays sharp for up to 30% longer than the OEM equivalent, with a lifetime guarantee against breakage.  We test all our blades in-house to some of the tightest tolerances in the industry, ensuring precision planting even in dry soil conditions.
  1. Coulter blades and high-speed compact disc blades may be used in strip-till operations to prepare a seedbed before planting.  Again, sharpness and durability are of paramount importance, enabling the farmer to cover more ground before the blades need to be replaced.  Our boron steel blades are designed to wear more evenly and last longer than any other blades on the market – plus we’re the exclusive United States distributor of Serbian-made, globally renowned FKL bearing hubs to help you get the best possible performance from your blades.
  1. Ripper points and chisel plow spikes are used in mulch-till operations for subsoiling.  This is deep, heavy-duty work that demands superior components with the longest possible wear life.  We offer custom hardfacing on many of our ground-engaging components, and we also source our ripper points using high-chromium white iron for additional strength and aggressiveness.
  1. For ridge tillage systems, our cultivator sweep blades can be used for mechanical weed control.

Want to find out more?

If you’re thinking ahead to fall planting or even next spring’s crop residue management, and you’d like to know more about how Wearparts can make your operations more efficient, get in touch – or locate your nearest Wearparts dealer.

Coping with drought: How farmers can adapt to a drier climate

Much of America’s Midwest is currently experiencing a prolonged dry spell, with below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures resulting in worsening drought conditions.  

According to the USDA’s drought monitor as of mid-June, parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Texas were experiencing severe drought conditions with over 50% of the country’s corn and soybean crop currently growing in drought areas.  

Even some storms with heavy rainfall have failed to make much difference in the driest places, which begs the question – is drought going to be a regular feature of US farming in the future?  How bad could it get?  And what can farmers do to mitigate against dry conditions?

Let’s take a look at farming in drought conditions – how to maximize soil moisture, what the options are for irrigation, and what the future of farming might look like as a result of ongoing climate conditions.

What can farmers do about drought?

There’s nothing a farmer can do to make it rain – but there are many steps farmers can take to address the problem of low precipitation.  These include measures like artificial irrigation, soil enhancement, erosion prevention and careful crop selection.  It’s worth noting that in extreme drought conditions, finding enough water to irrigate crops can be a challenge. Let’s take a look at some of the measures in more detail.

What are the main methods of soil irrigation?

There are lots of different methods of providing water to dry soil during a drought using irrigation systems.  Some systems – such as overhead sprinkler systems – are high cost and high-tech, and most often used for specialized crops with low drought tolerance.  Other methods are more cost effective and easier to apply across large acreages, like some of these tried and trusted methods:

Surface irrigation

Surface irrigation methods are some of the most traditional and involve simply flooding water onto the surface of the soil and allowing it to absorb.  Methods include furrow irrigation and border irrigation, where water is diverted into soil ‘troughs’ so it can’t run off before being absorbed.  Surface irrigation is low tech so it can be used on very large acreages, but it requires a lot of water, and doesn’t deliver targeted irrigation to the plant.

Center pivot irrigation

Center pivot irrigation is used for large farms because it can cover big areas efficiently.  A sprinkler system is mounted on wheeled towers which roll in a circular pattern around a central ‘pivot’, which is the water source.  Plants are then irrigated by the overhead sprinklers.  These systems have led to the emergence of circular crop fields all over America, although they can be adapted for rectangular fields.

Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation is when a farmer runs a network of pipes or tubes through a field.  The pipes have holes that drip feed water close to where the emerging plants are.  This system is relatively low tech and low cost, and delivers targeted moisture directly to the plant so it uses less water.  However, it may not be practical to use across very large areas.

Micro sprinkler

Like drip irrigation, micro sprinkler irrigation involves the use of a pipe network but instead of dripping out of holes in the pipe, the water is delivered through a series of small sprinkler attachments.  These provide a very fine spray of water that is precisely targeted to the plant, making them very water efficient – but not very cost-effective across large acreages.

Sub-surface irrigation

Sub-surface irrigation is similar to drip irrigation except that the pipes for delivering the water are buried underground.  This has some big advantages in that the moisture is delivered directly to the roots of the plant, and also because evaporation is kept to a minimum because the water is applied below the surface.  It’s not very high-tech, but can be disruptive to install and requires careful monitoring to ensure soil does not become waterlogged.  Care must also be taken not to disturb or damage the pipes during future planting cycles.

What are the alternatives to soil irrigation?

Artificial soil irrigation methods aren’t always very practical in modern day crop farming.  The vast acreages involved make watering plants via a network of sprinklers or pipes very expensive.

Instead, farmers must look for ways to preserve the moisture that’s already in the soil so that plants have the best possible chance of survival, even when it doesn’t rain for long periods.

How can farmers conserve soil moisture?

In order to retain moisture in the soil, it’s important to preserve both the structure and the content of that soil.  The more organic matter soil contains, the better it is at absorbing and retaining moisture.  Undisturbed soil has its own structure – a complex network of channels that allow moisture and nutrients to be moved around and stored.  Preserving the soil in the best possible condition is the key to preventing moisture loss.  Here’s a look at some ways farmers can optimise soil condition:

No-till systems

In no-till systems, the soil is not plowed or turned over, so its natural structure is preserved. This means that all the tiny pores and channels in the soil that are used to store water remain intact, and can be accessed by the roots of young plants.

Cover cropping

The pressures of modern farming have led to the ‘supersizing’ of the industry – it’s more economical to farm vast swathes of land using huge 100ft machines that can do more work in a single pass.  But these practices have meant the loss of natural hedgerows, woodlands and other windbreaks that are not only important for biodiversity, but also for moisture conservation.  A field surrounded by tall trees has its own microclimate – natural shade slows the evaporation of moisture, while tree canopies stop the wind from carrying away moist air.

Selecting crops for dry climates

One of the best things farmers can do to mitigate for drought conditions is grow crops that are naturally adapted to dry conditions.  These types of crops will require less irrigation and be less vulnerable to pests and disease.

Crops that cope well with dry conditions typically have deep roots that allow them to access moisture locked away in lower soil levels.  Science has led to the development of new varieties of staple crops like corn and soya that are better adapted to drought conditions.  But there are many crops that are naturally able to cope with dry soils, and many believe we should be looking into these as a more sustainable food source for the future.

These crops include cowpeas (black eyed peas), sorghum, alfalfa and groundnuts.

What to do if you are concerned about drought

There isn’t anything farmers can do that will prevent a drought or make it rain.  But there are things you can do to be better prepared, and to sustain their farms through prolonged dry periods.

  • Farmers don’t need reminding to keep their eye on the weather forecast – but it’s also worth keeping your finger on the pulse of the USDA drought monitoring system.  You can register to submit data from your own farm that helps meteorologists understand precipitation and drought patterns better.  It’s hoped this information will allow farmers to predict when future droughts will occur and act accordingly.
  • Make sure you are aware of any available government support and compensation programs relevant to drought.  You may be able to access financial support for irrigation systems, or claim against losses of livestock and/or crops due to excessively dry weather.
  • Work with your fellow farmers.  In many drought-prone states, farmers have formed water-sharing collectives or made arrangements with neighboring farms to share water resources.  Remember, a little water can make a big difference – collaborating with others can optimize water allocation and reduce individual risks.

Looking to the future

If you’re considering switching your farming system to a conservation or no-till method to conserve water, Wearparts can help.  We offer a wide range of replacement tillage and planting parts developed specifically for no-till systems, that can help you work the soil efficiently without damaging its natural structures.  Get in touch to find out more.