Soil compaction has emerged as one of the leading causes of yield loss across many agricultural regions in North America. The fact that deep tillage machines have largely gone out of favour in the past couple of decades seems to be a key reason for the redevelopment of the severe compaction issues. The issue with certain forms of deep tillage is that they can damage the crucial mid-soil layers that take years to develop, create significant amounts of erosion in many North American soil types, and pull up masses of deep lying rocks.
Bednar FMT seems to be offering a solution to the soil compaction problem while working around the classic concerns surrounding deep tillage with its Terraland TN 4000 M7R. The chisel plough carries a variety of smart features, both in its base version and within its available options, that can benefit soil beyond curing it of compaction.
The most prominent and important feature of the Terraland TN 4000 M7R is its unique set of tines. Each tine makes use of three equally important, and equally different, angles that cleverly make the difference between the Terraland being a soil health enabler and a soil layer destroyer.
The first angle on the tine is the one that sits the lowest. This area of the tine works nearly 2 feet deep where it can break through damaging hard pan and provide an avenue for plant roots, water and air to travel through. Deeper soil layers are usually lacking nutrients, so the angle of the tine is designed to cut aggressively through hard pan without carrying the poor soil up to the nutrient-heavy upper soil layers.
The second angle is different from the first in that it aims for an intensive mixing effect. The mid and upper parts of the tine promote adding crop residue to the nutrient heavy upper soil layers so that the crop residue can quickly decompose into usable, and evenly distributed organic matter for the upcoming crop to make use of.
The third angle contributes to the same process by essentially forcing each upper soil layer to become part of the mixture action and amplifying the inclusion of plant residue in the mixture.
Tandem spiked rollers on the rear of the implement provide more upper-soil layer mixing and create a soil profile suitable for seeding and planting directly into. The rollers are made to incorporate the leftover crop residue from the previous crop with the rest of the upper soil layer. This mixture encourages the breakdown of the residue into organic matter by spreading it into the decomposing-capable areas of the soil.
The mixture created by the tandem rollers also conveniently leaves an even mixture of soil and plant material on the surface layers of the soil that are normally the most prone to wind erosion. The residue remaining in the erosion-threatened soil region creates structure and a makeshift windbreak for soil that wouldn’t usually be expected from most other forms of tillage.
A handy feature of the rollers is that they are reversable. So, when a heavier mix of the top soil layers is the goal, the rollers can be oriented so that the curved spikes will more aggressively act on the soil. Contrastingly, if the goal is to decrease the intensity of the mixing process, the rollers can be flipped so that the curved spikes roll over the soil surface to a gentler degree.
One of the hard truths about tilling deep is that you can usually expect to be picking rocks for a few hours in your fields’ rocky patches once you finish. The Bednar Terraland can be fitted with a clever accumulator system that largely solves the rock picking problem. The hydraulic system can be manually adjusted to trip over nearly every rock in the stoniest of fields, but it can also be set to make the Terraland’s tines entirely rigid to avoid tine-tripping in the hardest of soils.
The system isn’t perfect. Rocks are almost impossible to avoid pulling up in many situations while tilling properly in deeper depths. But the system does a good job of leaving the great majority of rocks in the ground and preserving your back from tough rock picking situations.
The machine will cost a farmer close to $11,000 over the base price with the tripping system installed.
The Terraland TN 4000 M7R is quite a versatile machine as well. It can be fitted with fertilizer-carrying lines that can deposit fertilizer from an exterior fertilizer tank or cart anywhere in the soil profile. So, if you get your soil tested and it’s obvious that a specific soil layer is nutrient deficient, you can place the corresponding nutrients directly in that soil layer.
The machine can also perform the work of both a deep tillage machine and a regular cultivator. Its depth adjustment options give it the range to perform at multiple depths. If you find that your field doesn’t require a deeper opening of the soil, the rear rollers can be lowered, the tines can be lifted, and you can focus the machine on the higher soil layers.
Factors limiting the Terraland TN 4000 M7R are its power requirement and limited width. A big tractor is needed to pull a machine that doesn’t exactly cover land at the rapid rate we’ve become used to in North America. It’s an issue that becomes even more prominent for the larger pull-type versions of the Terraland. When tilling hard soil and through well established hard pan, the tractor pulling the implement can often be heard reaching for every spare unit of horsepower it can find unless the operator slows down. Even with the implement’s respectable top speed, it draws into question how realistic the Terraland TN 4000 M7R is for large operations that must get through many thousands of acres every year. An option for these larger farmers is to create a tillage rotation. Tilling a quarter of a farmer’s total land every year, for example, will allow for every acre to be deep tilled over a four-year span. That should prevent any severe hard pan from developing at any point.
The TN 4000 M7Rs popping up across central Alberta are leaving a good impression on farmers. A grain farmer east of Camrose was able to use the machine to drain water that had been sitting on the land late in the spring of 2017, allowing for the land to be seeded where it would’ve otherwise become summer fallow.
Another farmer near Edmonton credited the Terraland for a 90-bushel pea crop in 2017, which exceeded his expectations for the crop by approximately 20 per cent.
The Terraland TN 4000 M7R is an intriguing machine. It’s capable of solving many of the problems of the modern North American grower seemingly while only compromising with its relatively high horsepower requirements.