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Simple tools best for wheat ‘starter’

There’s nothing high tech about it at all...

March 10, 2008  By Ralph Pearce

Ask Stephen Thompson about the implement of his that can help even tough planting conditions and boost yield, and one thing he will stress is that it is not a revolutionary piece of farm equipment. He does not even like to refer to it as ‘innovative’. Instead, it is a testament to simplicity and an accountant’s dream.

Purchased for almost nothing, Thompson’s less-than-miraculous find is no more than a 16 section drag harrow bar that is roughly 50 feet wide. Thompson made his own refinements to it, creating an implement that raises and lowers the harrows hydraulically and has two hitches; one for the field position and the other for the road position. It also has eight wheels which pivot 90 degrees to allow for the change from field to road positions.

Simplicity is one key to success for this harrow bar, but width helps cover a large acreage in a short time period.

Thompson, who farms near Clinton, Ontario, came by the harrow through a friendship he cultivated with George Wraith, a former dealer with Versatile Farm Equipment in Goderich. Wraith had brought the implement from western Canada. After he died, Thompson paid the Wraith family the princely sum of a bottle of rye in exchange for the harrow bar. “The family told me I was the only person they knew who would make George proud the machine was going to be put to good use,” relates Thompson, noting that such attachments were common in the 1950s. “There’s nothing high tech about it at all, essentially it levels the ground.”


And it did just that. In the fall of 2006, when most growers were having to decide whether to mud-in their winter wheat or wait to plant spring varieties, Thompson found the perfect use for the harrow bar. “Our soils were a little ‘cheesy’ so, as we were trying to plant the crop, the soil wouldn’t cover the seedrow,” he explains. “So we ran the harrow bar crossways to cover the slots and the bottom line was that we averaged 80bu/ac. That $200 investment in time and some extra metal made $20,000 in total return. Even if I only use this once in six years, it’s worth the investment.”

The best news is, these types of implements are available at most auctions throughout rural Ontario.

Nothing but admiration
One convert of the Thompson Tickler is Pat Lynch of Cargill AgHorizons in Stratford. Lynch acknowledges Thompson’s reluctance at being considered an ‘innovator’ for using the harrow bar, yet he admires the Thompson family for their collective integrity and creativity, and their ‘Why not?’ approach.

The fact that Thompson was able to acquire the harrow bar for just a bottle of rye – and make it work to the extent he has – only deepens that respect. “I had worked with the Thompsons for a long time and I’d seen them use it at different times, as a sort of a rotary hoe, but where it really made a big difference was in the fall of 2006 with the wheat crop,” says Lynch. “They’ve used it at different times, as somebody would a rotary hoe, or maybe even as a soil finisher, just to rough the soil up a bit if it’s crusted and really just to help emergence.”

While Lynch cannot think of any other application than as a leveller or soil finisher, he would like to see its effect on weed control. “If somebody had conventional till or even in no-till, just to do some early weed control, just to get rid of weeds,” says Lynch, “I would be interested to see what this would do for that first flush of weeds if you put on herbicide and don’t get enough rain. It’s cheap herbicide, you don’t have to worry about resistance and the beauty of Thompson’s unit is that it’s so wide, you can cover large acreages in a short time.” -end-


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