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Look What They’re Doing With Rotary Hoes
“Rotary hoes are absolutely fantastic tools. There is a window where they work really well, but sometimes it is a very narrow window,” says Jonathan Hostetler, at TH Fabrication, manufacturer of a couple of new weed control machines - the Row Focus Rotary Hoe and the Swinging Spider cultivator. “When a nearby farmer came to us looking for better weed control, we realized we could open that window up.”
The original concept was to control the depth and turn the rotary hoe units at an angle for better weed control in-row. Hostetler and his partner Chris Kennell came up with a heavy-duty parallel linkage that attaches to any toolbar. They added 3/16-in. gauge wheels for precise depth control. The tillage element consists of 5 rotary hoe wheels spaced 2 in. apart that can be adjusted up to 15 degrees. A variety of add-ons can be attached behind the rotary hoe wheels.
“By controlling the angle and the down pressure, we can penetrate crust and be much more aggressive at disturbing the crust inside the row for better weed control,” says Hostetler.
It’s all about proactive weed control, says Hostetler. “The Row Focus units can provide weed control from pre-emergence until corn is 3 to 4 in. tall,” he says. “At that point, the farmer can use our Swinging Spider cultivator.”
Hostetler says the Swinging Spider is designed to address farmer frustrations with Lilliston-style tools. “We heard so many good things about Lilliston, the way the spiders move dirt in a really effective way,” he says. “However, we were told it was a headache to change the direction of the spider gangs.”
The custom fabricators were told that to adjust the angle, the gang had to be unbolted from the toolbar, repositioned and reset.
Hostetler and Kennell came up with a patent pending swing arm that lets the spider gang be moved either right or left using a simple plate and pin system. A worm gear on the spider gang changes the angle of the spiders for more or less aggressive soil action.
“We took a proven concept and made it more user friendly,” says Hostetler. “With our design, the operator can change or modify the position and the angle quickly and easily.”
After beta testing the 2 tools in 2020, they did limited marketing this spring. “We made a modest run of the Row Focus this past winter for a handful of farmers across 5 states,” says Hostetler. “We make them as individual row units for farmers who want to use their existing toolbars or as a complete toolbar and row unit package. We have 3 of the Swinging Spider systems on farms.”
While the company is taking orders for the 2022 cropping year, setting a price in a rising steel market is difficult. “If we priced what we built this past winter, we would be in the range of $2,500 per row unit for the Swinging Spider and around $1,900 for the Row Focus units,” says Hostetler. “We are still tweaking them and may make changes based on farmer input. Prices will depend on that and what the steel market does.”
Introducing the 2 products has been a new experience for TH Fabrication. Both grew out of meeting customer needs.
“We focus on custom projects, not repairs,” says Hostetler. “When we started on the rotary hoe improvements, we didn’t realize the path we were starting down.”
With 2 new weeding tools under their belt, the fabricators are now working on a third. They are developing a strip till unit. It is still in the prototype stage, but they plan to do beta testing this fall.
“The idea is for a farmer to be able to do strip tilling in the fall and then come back with the Row Focus in the spring to freshen the strip and control weeds,” says Hostetler. “We work with a number of organic farmers with non-chemical weed control needs. They are a very good group for collaborating and sharing ideas that can work for conventional farmers as well.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, TH Fabrication, P.O. Box 212, El Paso, Ill. 61738 (ph 309 319-6165; jonathan@th-fabrication.com; www. th-fabrication.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #4