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Eight years after jumping into no-till, Paul Reed and his three brothers had just about had it. “We almost quit no-tilling in 1990,” says Reed, explaining that as they expanded their no-till acreage, they also saw their planting window shrinking.
“We were often pushing too hard and planting into conditions where we’d get inconsistent results.” The problem, says the Washington, Iowa, no-tiller, was mainly linked to high soil moisture under early spring no-tilling conditions.
But, the Reeds recognized that moisture is always a problem for no-tillers. So in March of 1990 they began doing some test plantings in mud holes. They figured that if they took the moisture problem to an extreme, they could see what kind of improvements they could make more quickly.
“As I rode on the no-till planter boxes, I became convinced that the problem was mechanical and not agronomic,” says Reed.
The 25-year-old row unit design compressed the moist soil. Reed developed his theory by observing soils both before and after no-tilling with a John Deere MaxEmerge no-till planter. Even when the soil was in beautiful condition ahead of the row units, it was destroyed by the time that it came out the back, Reed observed.
“We had sidewall compaction,” he says. “The problem was with the row unit and not the soil. So we set about changing the way that the row unit worked.”
The original MaxEmerge unit was introduced in the late 1960s and early ’70s when many no-tillers were dealing with…