Clearing clogged up row cleaners or trash wheels is not a fun chore, especially when growers are trying to plant hundreds of acres of cotton in cover crop residue between rainstorms in early April or late May.
But there are ways to address that issue, according to research conducted by Tyson Raper, Extension cotton and small grain specialist and his colleagues at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.
Raper, one of the presenters at this year’s University of Tennessee Milan No-Till Field Day, says planter gauge wheels are designed to ride on relatively smooth soil surfaces. If there are clumps of vegetation – such as cover crop residue – in their path, it can cause the planter row units to ride up and down.
“A lot of the cover crops we plant in west Tennessee are multiple species, and we’ll have small portions of a number of plants in the mix,” he said. “When those gauge wheels run across a different species of cover crops or different densities, we’ll see those wheels pick up and drop down. That’s where we get a lot of our seed kick outs and hair pinning.”
Planters are designed to adjust for uneven soil surface with row cleaners, he noted. “In cotton, we typically like to have an aggressive row cleaner because we can’t afford to have a lot of up and down movement in that very small half-inch to inch depth, we normally have for planting cotton.
“The problem is these more aggressive types of row cleaners typically bind if they’re not set just right. Some are more prone to bind than others. The better approach would be something like these shark-tooth row cleaners where there is very little space for that cover crop biomass to accumulate.”
The shark-tooth cleaners allow the biomass to be “sluffed back;” the lead coulter to slice through any residue that remain in the furrow; and the gauge wheels can ride on a more uniform surface as they roll through the field, he said.
For more information on the tours at this year’s field day, visit https://milannotill.tennessee.edu/research-tours/.