As Dorothy might say to Toto: Great Plains Manufacturing isn't (only) in Kansas anymore. Based in Salina, the tillage and planter manufacturer has had an international presence since 1982 when it sold some planters to a Saudi customer who wanted them painted gold. That global presence keeps expanding, a fact in evidence last week in Kansas City at Great Plains' annual dealer meeting and media event. It attracted visitors from 22 counties including China, Russia, New Zealand and Ethiopia. The bulk of the foreign attendees were from European countries.
Europe is a focus for Great Plains, which four years ago acquired Simba International -- a European innovator in tillage tools -- and has since set up shop at Simba's factory in Sleaford, England. Great Plains not only exports products from Kansas to Europe, it also manufactures machines in England specifically for the European market. As a byproduct of its European operations, Great Plains has begun to import back home ideas that work well in Europe and can make a smooth transition to North American agriculture.
One result is the Short Disk, which Great Plains literature says, "delivers European-style efficiency in rugged field conditions." European farms are known for their manicured appearance. The Short Disk doesn't promise that, but as a primary tillage tool, it can give a nearly finished look to a field -- even one with American-style high residue, said Hank Kummer, Great Plains tillage engineer.
The Short Disk is not a direct import, Kummer said, "We've adapted it to be more user-friendly for the United States market."
Among the European-style features:
*Traditional North American primary tillage tools use 18- to 20-inch disc blades. Great Plains' Short Disk uses aggressive 24-inch disc blades in parallel gangs that can go up to 7 inches deep.
*The blade sizes are feathered, beginning with 20-inch diameters on the outermost blade, moving to 22-inches for the second blade and finishing with 24-inches for the rest of the blades in each gang. Feathering can help prevent gouging during sharp turns.
*"We spread the gangs apart, allowing the Short Disk to flow the higher residue that occurs here in the States," said Kummer, "Unlike some [North American] competitors who run the blades all one direction in the front and all one direction in the back, we've split in the center. Our disk throws out to both sides in the front and throws in from both sides in the back, preventing 'dog tracking' when it hits heavy soil conditions, yet achieving excellent cutout and a smooth, consistent surface throughout the field."
*In many European tillage tools, rollers replace baskets to level the soil at the rear of the machines. Great Plains uses cast iron rollers of its own design on the Short Disk. They are 24-inch wheels on 7 1/2-inch spacings. Kummer said they have several advantages over baskets: They are hydraulically adjustable, and more weight can be put on them than on rollers. They allow heavy residue to flow through, and they can operate in wetter conditions than baskets, which tend to fill with soil.
The Short Disk has fore and aft leveling to correct for ridges and valleys. An operator can adjust the leveling from the tractor cab. An optional gauge wheel package allows the machine to work through softer ground without leaving tire tracks.
"We use walking tandems across the unit to allow for better ground contouring while working the field," Kummer says.
European fields are often smaller than North American fields, so tillage tools have to fold small and be road worthy. The Short Disk -- which comes in 26- and 29.5-feet working widths -- folds to a transport width of 15 feet, 3 inches. "Road transport axles don't load up the inner tires on the crown of the road, preventing pre-mature tire wear," Kummer said.
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