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Single implement boosts Arizonan’s cotton

Arizona farmer Tyson Stuhr is improving his cotton production efficiency and enhancing environmental stewardship by running a single minimum till implement.

For Stuhr, this means reduced tillage fuel costs down to $10 per acre, four tractors and extra tillage implements are no longer needed, and a workforce reduction from eight to one. The savings allowed him to launch a custom business.

Stuhr’s gung-ho support is for the Wilcox Eliminator made by Wilcox Agri Products in Walnut Grove, Calif. He purchased the implement for the 2003 cotton harvest on the family’s 4,000-acre cotton, alfalfa, and bermudagrass operation near Gila Bend.

Stuhr shared his findings during an innovative farmer panel during the 2007 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans, La., in January.

“Now I have one tractor and one implement running a 12-hour shift. There is one tractor drinking fuel 12 hours a day instead of four tractors drinking fuel 24 hours a day pulling four implements. One 500 horsepower tractor and the Eliminator is all I need,” Stuhr said.

In pre-Eliminator times, Stuhr completed the cotton harvest and shredded the stalks. Then he disked down the cotton stubble, ripped down the row, plowed, land planed twice, disked incorporated a pre-plant herbicide, then listed up, and planted. Today, the Eliminator has removed the need to disk, list, plow, and incorporate herbicide.

“I’m saving six operations,” he said. “Now I apply the pre-plant herbicide and run the Eliminator and I’m ready to list up my rows and plant. We’re doing 80 acres a day in a 12-hour shift and I haven’t had a night crew in three years.”

The Eliminator has saved at least one irrigation on the front end while trying to raise a stand out of the ground. Stuhr dry plants and irrigates up.

The optional ring roller on the back runs between borders to break clods creating an improved seedbed. Moving from cotton to alfalfa is achieved in a single pass eliminating re-lasering costs.

“The Eliminator’s only downside is high residue crops can plug it up,” Stuhr said. “If cotton fields have morningglory, the implement spreads out the patch out a little further.”

In his custom work, Stuhr provides tillage, land leveling, and land clearing services. The freed up 200-horse tractors from the pre-Eliminator days are now run in custom laser work.

In custom tillage, Stuhr charges $100 per hour for the tractor and the Eliminator. The client provides fuel and the hired man to drive it. Charges are hourly vs. per acre as hard soil conditions impact the speed of the tractor/implement combination. In just three years, savings from the Eliminator use on Stuhr’s farm and custom tillage have paid off the implement and tractor ($240,000).

He said, “There is nothing difficult about this machine as it’s simple to operate. The Eliminator has the same bearings throughout, two hydraulic hoses, and no power takeoff shaft. I can even transport it with my pickup.”

Stuhr, 33, planted his first cotton crop at age 13 as a FFA project. An agriculture business graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, he and his wife Stacy were the first Arizona farmers to purchase the Eliminator.

Prior to the Eliminator, Stuhr owned what is called a Pegasus, a one-pass implement to bury cotton stalks after harvest. He was pleased with its performance, however, it was strictly a cotton production tillage implement.

According to Alan Wilcox, owner of Wilcox Agri Products, the Eliminator’s price depending on options ranges from $50,000-$75,000.

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