Coulters and Closing Wheels for No-Till Corn
Which work best? That depends on the conditions.
4/26/97 -- This year, I installed a 12-wave 1-inch-wide coulter in front of each double-disk opener on my New Idea/Kinze corn planter. After planting 50 acres I like them, and I hate them.
I like the coulters because they tend to throw stalks from a previous corn crop out of the row area. This exposes the soil over the row in order to warm up the row area quicker for faster crop germination. They performed almost like row cleaners.
I don't like the coulters for the same reason. In some situations I don't want the soil thrown out of the row. For example, I was planting into an old alfalfa field that was killed last fall. The soil was flying everywhere! So I took the coulters off completely and the planter did a much better job.
I also planted into bean residue without any coulters, and it worked fine. It just goes to show you what long term no-till can do in making the soil more mellow. Ten years ago, I would never have even considered no-tilling without coulters! A couple years ago, I had even added an additional set of springs to get more down pressure. But I took them off this year because my frame-mounted coulters were penetrating too deep.
It will be interesting to see how my planter performs no-tilling corn into my neighbor's old alfalfa field that hasn't had the benefit of years of cover cropping. To cope with all the different soil and residue conditions I face each year, I'm considering investing in several different kinds of coulters so that I can match my planter to the job.
I've also been testing different types of closing wheels for my corn planter for four years. Most no-tillers use cast iron closing wheels, which are considered the standard. I started out with them, too.
Then I tried Acra-Plant spoked closing wheels. I liked the way they broke up the soil over the row, much like a pass with a rotary hoe would do. But they still didn't do quite what I wanted them to do when planting into sod.
Next I tried May-Wes poly "notched" closing wheels. They are touted as being resistant to mud build-up when soils are wet, and to deliver a chopping action to reduce sidewall compaction. Last year was a real test because our ground was extremely wet at planting. I wasn't impressed with their ability to cope with our mud, but I thought their chopping action was better than Acra-Plant's wheels.
This year I installed Martin spading closing wheels, and they are the best I've used! In some fields I adjusted the down pressure as low as it could go and they still did a nice job of closing the slot. It chops up the soil over the row and makes it nice and fluffy, and closes the seed furrow nicely. I can't wait to try them when I no-till pumpkins into a cover of rye, vetch and crimson clover.
-- Steve Groff
Cedar Meadow Farm
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