Hemdale Farms is not your average agriculture operation.
The farm originally started as a small dairy and vegetable stand in Seneca Castle, N.Y. Today, the farm has grown to 1,250 milking Holstein dairy cows and 3,000 acres of land growing cabbage, corn, alfalfa, wheat, snap beans and pumpkins.
In December 2016, Hemdale Farms purchased a KUHN Krause Gladiator® 1200 pull-type strip-tillage system to assist them with their operation’s strip tillage needs.
“At the time, we were running a competitor’s machine; we had seen other similar machines in the field too. With support from our local dealer, Monroe Tractor, we decided to demo a KUHN Krause Gladiator on our farm,” explained Casey Kunes, Hemdale Farms Operations Manager.
Up until 20 years ago, all crop acres were moldboard plowed with two to three passes of secondary horizontal tillage on the farm. They then transitioned to deep ripping with furrowers to leave a ridge in the fall. In the spring, there would be one deep pass with a field cultivator and one pass with some type of secondary, shallow, horizontal tillage tool. However, there were problems: the deep ripping was still disturbing too much soil, erosion was a concern, and they were using a lot of labor, fuel, and parts to complete their tillage operation.
After trialing strip tillage over a three-year period on an increasing number of acres, the farm integrated it permanently into their operation. Depending on the weather, Hemdale Farms strip tills every row crop in the spring in a variety of field conditions including killed cover crop with varied amounts of trash, open ground following a manure application and killed alfalfa sod.
“The Gladiator works well in all of our conditions, however, the alfalfa sod sometimes requires two passes because of the sod’s firmness,” explained Kunes.
With the practice of strip tillage, it is important to create a prominent berm. On Hemdale Farms, this is important because corn, beans and pumpkins need to have a good shaped berm. This helps provide clean rows for the planter
When it comes to creating strips for their strip tillage, it was important for Hemdale Farms to create a good, loose, uniform zone that would also assist the planter and help optimize the area for planting.
Thanks to the Gladiator working well in a variety of conditions, the farm has significantly reduced their fuel and labor costs since the purchase in 2016. Kunes estimated that with the Gladiator, Hemdale Farms has saved approximately 500 hours per year. Also as a result, they own less tillage equipment too.
“There is no plow or spring tooth drag (on the farm). Our field cultivator use is limited to just a herbicide incorporation pass in our cabbage and we only use a disc to level harvesting ruts when needed,” said Kunes.
Kunes has also noticed how the nutrient incorporation on the farm has greatly improved too with the use of strip tillage.
“By using strip tillage in our corn, we are able to split up the fertilizer application and placement by putting it down deep under the row in our fields. We are then able to use less fertilizer with our planter and side dress the field allowing them to widen their application window. In our vegetable crops and especially our cabbage, we are able to apply nutrients directly below the plant row, rather than prior broadcast applications,” explained Kunes.
As for the features on the machine, Kunes really appreciates each of them.
“Both the ST-PRO row units and toolbar have held up well, require little maintenance and are easy to adjust. I especially like the way that the toolbar can be pinned in a safe position allowing easy point changes for the Gladiator.”
Out of all the KUHN equipment Hemdale Farms owns (four machines in total), they have found that they like the Gladiator the best and anticipate that it will be followed by their recently purchased Interceptor® 8050 high-speed tillage machine.
“We have used other competitive machines and the Gladiator does the best job out of all of them. It does not require much service or repair especially because there are less lubrication points on the machine,” said Kunes, “We also like how easy it is to adjust the depth of the machine and how you are able to change points on the machine when you are standing up.”
Overall, the KUHN Krause Gladiator has helped Hemdale Farms achieve superior strips with one pass in most conditions for better crop stands with less labor and maintenance costs.
“I would recommend Kuhn Krause because the equipment does superior work with less maintenance and repairs. These are great tools and we have good local dealer support!”