Clyde Cook still remembers helping his dad farm with a team of horses as a young boy. Today, he harnesses more than 500 hp with a Case Quadtrac 535 pulling the wheat drill and fertilizer applicator he built in his shop.
Cook builds equipment to suit his needs. “Manufacturers don't build a tow cart that will carry anhydrous ammonia, liquid fertilizer and seed,” he says. “We wanted a compact unit to pull between the tractor and the drill that was heavy enough to do a lot of acres.”
Cook is a partner in Lovell and Cook Partnership, which includes his son Brigham and brother-in-law Ron Lovell. The Ririe, ID, farm includes 6,000 acres of dryland wheat, irrigated wheat and potatoes. They no-till the dryland, continuous wheat acres, but the residue of 125- to 150-bu. irrigated wheat still requires some tillage.
“We used an old Yielder drill frame for the cart,” Cook explains. “First we extended the axle so we could mount four 30.5 × 32 diamond tread flotation tires to reduce compaction. We also ran a 6 × 6 tube from just behind the ball hitch on the front of the Yielder frame to the back of the frame where a John Deere 1895 drill attaches with a pin hitch. Since the cart was going to carry more weight than the drill was originally designed for, we added some bridge trusses to reinforce it.
“It all tows very nicely,” Cook says. “We can make 90-degree turns with no problems.”
Cook mounted a 3,000-gal. anhydrous tank in the center of the cart and straddled it with two 700-gal. poly tanks for liquid fertilizer. AgPro custom-built a 10,000-lb. seed tank with individual tubes for each row unit. “It's a little more cumbersome than using a seed manifold and it doesn't look quite as tidy,” Cook says. “But it has a lot less variability in the seed row.
“The tank sizes were calculated based on how much product we needed to cover 165 to 170 acres using our standard fertilizer and seed rates,” he adds.
An Exactrix TAPPS system delivers anhydrous and liquid fertilizer to brackets mounted on the front gang of fertilizer units on Cook's drill. “When we fall seed, we leave the front gang of openers mounted on 20-in. centers, like the factory set them,” he explains. “We move the rear two gangs of seed openers to create a 7-13 paired row pattern that straddles the band of fertilizer. When we top-dress wheat in the spring, we add eight additional fertilizer openers to the front gang and narrow the spacing to 15 in.”
The efficiency of dual banding with the Exactrix system has allowed Cook to cut fertilizer rates. “In the past we applied 180 to 200 units of nitrogen/acre and we've been able to reduce that to 130 units of nitrogen/acre without sacrificing yield. We may still reduce it some more,” he says. “That was the driving force behind this new system. We used to use dry fertilizer. With the switch to anhydrous and reduced rates with dual banding, we're saving $75/acre on input costs.”
It takes about 65 gpm of hydraulic fluid to power the two hydraulic motors on the Exactrix system, the hydraulic motor for the seed fan, and the hydraulic power that maintains down pressure on all three gangs of openers on the drill. Cook special-ordered his Quadtrac with the TwinFlow option the company offers. With a second hydraulic pump installed on the tractor's hydraulic system, flow capacity increases to 94 gpm.
In addition to the hydraulic capacity, Cook wanted the Quadtrac for its ability to handle “compaction and traction.” “It has more horsepower than we really use most of the time,” he says. “But when we start seeding on fields with 12- to 15-degree slopes, that's when we need the power. The tracks give us the ability to plant steep slopes without losing traction. That tractor can pull the drill in places where a combine should never go.”
Inside the tractor cab is a large bank of monitors and controllers to run all the technology Cook built into his drill. That includes an EZ-Steer unit to keep the train on the tracks. “We don't have good enough signals to use RTK in our hills,” Cook says. “But this keeps us within less than a foot, which is adequate. We added an AgLeader monitor this year so we could map our fields and record our fertilizer application. This fall we'll move the monitor to the combine to create yield maps.”
Of course it's easier to describe a machine like Cook's than to build it. The design and fabrication come with headaches. But, Cook admits, if he wasn't farming, he'd probably be designing farm equipment as a career. “Building this drill was a fun challenge,” he says. “It's the kind of thing I like to do.”