1984 - Volume #8, Issue #4, Page #34[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
One-Pass Plant, Till, Harvest Machines
The "Efficienculture" machine, as Nienberg calls it, consists of a central power unit and two 50-ft. toolbar "wings" that spread out to either side. The power unit is designed to run along established roadbeds in the field and all tillage, planting and harvest equipment mounts on the wide toolbars. The machine eliminates the need for field tractors, swathers, combines, forage choppers and all conventional field equipment. "Once in operation, no weighted wheel will ever run through the crop itself, re-storing fields to their virgin state of tilth, according to Nienberg.
"Most farms have a fence row strip that hasn't been plowed for 50 years. Take a look at it. It'll have the finest tilth of any land on the farm. But it only takes a few years farming before it's as compacted as the rest of the land. Restoring it to its original organic state can boost yields 50% or more," claims Nienberg.
The new machine is also fast. "It'll plant 1,000 acres in a 24 hour period, traveling 5 mph. Because you don't have to drive through the fields, it lets you plant as soon as the soil is workable to a depth of 3 in. so there are no late-planting yield losses. Because you don't have to leave room for wheel travel between rows, you can plant in row widths designed to shade out weeds and conserve moisture. The most idle farmland in America today is between rows."
Nienberg says that to operate the machine, 8-ft. wide bluegrass-covered permanent runways will be established through the field for the power unit. Support wheels at the end of each boom will run on the nextroadway 50 ft. away. The space taken up for the roadways will be more than made up for by the narrower row spacing in the fields, he says.
"With this design you'll be able to spray for weeds, insects, or other problems at any stage of growth whenever the spraying needs to be done, regardless of the soil conditions. No markers will be needed and there will never be any skips or spray overlaps. You'll also be able to inter-seed any crop into standing crops at any point in the growing season," says Nienberg.
The power unit on his prototype machine is powered by a 320 cu. in. Ford engine. Everything on the machine is hydrostatically-driven. The unit has an arched frame to accommodate underbelly conveyors that'll handle crop material as it's carried to the power unit from the wings. The power unit has an auto pilot wheel that will follow the roadway so the operator can concentrate on field operations. The booms fold back along the sides of the unit for transport , and hydraulic cylinders along the booms control their height. Nienberg says that roadways will be laid out so as to cover 100% of fields, with no need for turn-around space. The booms are designed to flex on hilly or uneven ground.
Nienberg's prototype machine is equipped to harvest vegetable crops which is the most likely initial market for the machine in his area. However, in his patent he detailed plans for equipment to handle virtually every field operation.
Planting: The planting attachment on each boom will have 75 clockwise-turning discs, powered by hydraulic motors. The discs will cut 1-in. wide slits in the soil to a depth of up to 3 in. Press wheels will firm the soil around the seed. Seed will be augered on-the-go from a truck on the roadway ahead of the machine, and will be augered through tubes to each row unit. The planter will place dry fertilizer and herbicides in the soil with the seed.
Grain and Forage Harvesting: Blades attached to roller chains will cut standing grain or forage. Conveyors will carry grain to the under-belly of the power unit where it will be augered to the grain separator or forage choppers towed behind the power unit. Grain reels will be hydraulically-powered, while the grain separator will be pto-powered off the power unit a
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