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Grant, can you tell us about the custom swale plow  RSS feed

 
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You have this video, but I can't find any more info on it



Does it work? What would you change? Is there a blog post somewhere about it?


 
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Definitely interested in this as well and I'd like to hear more from Grant. From what I've heard excavators are the best equipment for making swales.. especially ones with a knuckle above the bucket to have a "flexible wrist" for better angling and grading options to conserve and separate top soil etc.

In my PDC at Ben Falk's, he had an equipment guy there with a bulldozer (excavator from the 1st course was already returned). Although we got it done as a class through some hand finishing, we found that a bulldozer is not the best for making swales on deeper turf.. a valuable lesson learned.

That being said I'd like to see this plow in action. Excavators can be expensive to rent, never mind purchase, and I'm all for innovative and frugal solutions. Since tractors can be found on a lot more farms than can excavators, a modified plow would be a huge boon to cheaply implement swales!
 
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Location: Kentucky Zone 6
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I'm looking at doing some swales in the next year. I would love to learn more about this. Thanks!
 
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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More about the swale plow:

Video does an OK job of explaining how the plowshare re-arrangement was done. I'll look for more pics to follow.

typical plow arrangment:

tractor here
______
.......\
....\ <---each plowshare fills in previous furrow
.\


new swale plow arrangment:

tractor here
______
....\
......\ <----double furrow created, previous plowshare tosses soil into next and then one big berm is created.
0 <---hilling disc cuts arc in landheel side and spreads friable soil across swale floor to form seedbed


The swale plow does a great job in 90% of soil conditions. Mass of tractor is important, we used an old 80hp Oliver 1800 with cat 2 3 pt, and did well in proper soil conditions.
Swales can only be formed by traversing (driving) one way across slope, driving back the opposite way would throw soil uphill, we're forming swale to right side of tractor, ideally downhill.

First used ours it at the tail end of 12-week drought (no rain for 10 weeks and 0.10" in last two before drought ended). Had minimal ground penetration in those conditions, so trackhoe best for absurdly hard dry clay soils. Used later in season and put up a great 18" tall swale in one easy pass.

re: charge
This technology is so accessible and simple, any local welding shop could rearrange an old 2 or 3 bottom plow (fencerow or auction cheap)

re: dozers for swales

Swale plows are a more elegant solution than dozers for building swales for several reasons.
1) turns a furrow: grasses and roots are turned in cleanly and linearly. Dozers tend to throw random large hunks up as soil and roots fracture in an unpredictable manner. These clods take seed poorly and require mass hand-labor or going over with a skidloader to smooth. (Where'd the time savings go, dozer?)

With a swale plow (engineered to turn over soil in a fixed width), it leaves behind a consistent surface primed to bury root mass and be a good seedbed (no raking, just broadcast)

2) Cheap. Excavators rent for $250-1,500/day here (depending on size) This plow was built in a day from fencerow salvaged equipment (free) Some time, torching and welding rod is all it took. Can't weld? Hire one, that's what they're good at. Alternatively - great way to learn, tough to goof up 1/2" thick steel.
 
R Scott
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Cool.

I think you could reconfigure an old ferguson plow without welding, they are entirely bolted together: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ferguson_Plow_with_coulters_and_jointers_hooked_via_3_point_hitch_to_600_series_Ford_tractor.jpg

 
Grant Schultz
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Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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R Scott wrote:Cool.

I think you could reconfigure an old ferguson plow without welding, they are entirely bolted together: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ferguson_Plow_with_coulters_and_jointers_hooked_via_3_point_hitch_to_600_series_Ford_tractor.jpg



That looks like a perfect start. Adding a hilling disc is important to smooth the uphill landheel transition, other wise your nice new swale/berm would quickly fill in as the uphill soil calves into swale.
 
R Scott
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Thanks. Now I get what you are doing with the hiller disk.

I also see why you need a ~60+ hp, 6,000+ lb tractor to pull it. You have one shot to get it full depth.

Did you keyline/rip under where you placed the mound? Wondering if that would help infiltration and root penetration.
 
Grant Schultz
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R Scott wrote:Thanks. Now I get what you are doing with the hiller disk.

I also see why you need a ~60+ hp, 6,000+ lb tractor to pull it. You have one shot to get it full depth.

Did you keyline/rip under where you placed the mound? Wondering if that would help infiltration and root penetration.



You could do it in multiple passes if you really wanted/had to, but you have to re-track your path perfectly or risk a wonky swale profile (or have to touch it up by hand).

A smaller plow for a smaller tractor would suffice, ours uses 2-16" shares. 12" and 14" are common on most older plows.

re: ripping
Important not to conflate Keyline and subsoiling. One can implement a Keyline design with swales and never subsoil (with a Yeomans or otherwise) or vice-versa.

The inter-row space (alleys) does get ripped sometimes, but not always and typically 4+ feet from the actual swale.
 
Posts: 92
Location: West Virginia 6a Avgerage Rainfall 54" est. Average snowfall 36"
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You could do it in multiple passes if you really wanted/had to, but you have to re-track your path perfectly or risk a wonky swale profile (or have to touch it up by hand).



I'm not sure I understand how you could make multiple passes without compacting the swale berm. Could you elaborate?
 
Grant Schultz
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Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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John Merrifield wrote:

You could do it in multiple passes if you really wanted/had to, but you have to re-track your path perfectly or risk a wonky swale profile (or have to touch it up by hand).



I'm not sure I understand how you could make multiple passes without compacting the swale berm. Could you elaborate?



Depending upon how you have the plow mounted, downhill tire could track in the floor of swale or straddle the swale. I have my tractor set with 8' wheel spacing.
 
R Scott
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RE: Ripping. I was referring to the machine, not the method. Sorry for the confusion. We have heavy clay and it has been suggested to me to rip on contour under what will be the swale mound to speed up infiltration and root penetration. Your soil is probably more loamy, but I was curious if you did anything since you said it was "concrete" at the time.

I had been looking for a big one bottom plow, like an 18" or 20", to make swales but no luck around here (they were always rare). But a 2-12 or 2-14 is very common. If I set it up so I can drive in the furrow (like "normal" plowing), then I could do it in multiple passes and get by with my little tractor.

This is so cool!!! I was dreading the cost of getting a machine here and working between the machine's timeline, mine, and the weather. This will make me much more independent.

 
Grant Schultz
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Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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R Scott wrote:

I had been looking for a big one bottom plow, like an 18" or 20", to make swales but no luck around here (they were always rare). But a 2-12 or 2-14 is very common. If I set it up so I can drive in the furrow (like "normal" plowing), then I could do it in multiple passes and get by with my little tractor.

This is so cool!!! I was dreading the cost of getting a machine here and working between the machine's timeline, mine, and the weather. This will make me much more independent.



Or buy a multi-bottom 18" or 20" as scrap and cut it down to one bottom!
 
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These days plows are fairly inexpensive because plowing is largely out go vogue in modern agriculture.
 
Grant Schultz
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Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Here's a photo of swale plow in-use. Soil was super dry at this point in time (10 week drought). Plows works beautifully with optimal soil conditions



 
R Scott
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THANKS!!!

 
Luke Vaillancourt
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Great shots in those photos.. I think this plow is going to be huge for people try to construct swales on a budget!
 
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very cool,
How about a video of it actually plowing?
 
pollinator
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Though our solution to not reconfigure our two-bottom plow required more passes, we used two implements to do the work of moving the soil. We simply put a drag blade on after we had made several passes with the plow and set the blade at a sharp angle to force the loose soil downhill to the berm. It worked well actually, though not fuel efficient. I burned through a lot of gas in my old 1948 8N tractor making one 150-foot swale. I have to say that reconfiguring the plow makes a lot of sense to reduce the passes ... and if your tractor is big enough I have to think it will reduce passes dramatically.

Here's a thread showing a couple of pictures of me doing the thing: http://www.permies.com/t/28896/earthworks/Swale-berm-planting-suggestions
 
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Just following up on this.. Grant do you have any videos of this plow in action.. There is still nothing on the net about it.
 
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