Farmers have always been known for their self-reliance. If a piece of equipment is broken, they don't replace it, they fix it themselves. Some, like David Holthaus, who farms near Baileyville in northeast Kansas, take it a step further and improve new and proven machinery. "When I was younger, my dad did a lot of metal fabrication in the shop, which helped a lot," he says. "I like working with metal and we're always fabricating something, whether it's planters or just tinkering."
If his John Deere color-coded shop doesn't show he has a passion for fabrication and tinkering, his two, three and four-row planters he built himself do. Holthaus sells about 50 planters a year. He's been building them since 2000, but recently, a new project has given way: adding to the John Deere 2510H anhydrous ammonia applicator.
Holthaus has done custom application for a local co-op since 2003. Until three years ago, he used a knife machine before switching to the 2510H, he says. The 2510H's disc openers run at an even depth, which pays off on highly-erodible ground. "It's a high-speed, low-disturbance opener," he says. "You about have to have a disc opener to get that kind of evenness and low disturbance, which is what a lot of no-till guys want, especially on rolling terrain." He says this model is unique in this regard. "John Deere is the only one I know of that sells a disc opener with a bar."
In this region of Kansas, most fertilizer is put on in the fall. However, the 2510H is also useful in spring. "With the disc opener, it does a lot better job in the spring than a knife," he says. "You don't have those air pockets underneath the soil that a knife will leave sometimes."
Improving a proven piece of equipment
But there was something missing. "I knew the 2510H was proven," he says. "It just wasn't capable of dual-placement." So, he added a cart to include dry fertilizer with a Montag tank. An authorized Montag dealer, Holthaus has used the cart for custom dual-placement on over 7,000 acres in the past three years. Now, he can combine the benefits of the 2510H with dual-placement of dry fertilizer and anhydrous for his own 2510DH. "Basically, we're just adding to it," he says. "There is really no modification to the bar itself."
Holthaus also built a 2510DH for his neighbor, who has used it for 4,800 acres of custom work this fall. Dual-placement offers some advantages, Holthaus says. "We are dropping the dry fertilizer in the ground behind the anhydrous ammonia," he explains. "It saves you a pass." It also helps the plant. "It's nice to have the fertilizer in the ground. It makes it readily available to the plant."
Traverses terraces with ease
Besides being low-disturbance and offering dual-placement, the applicator and cart are easy to traverse over terraces and rolling terrain, which prevents overlapping, saving time and money, he says. One of the features includes wheels that dolly. In most fields, fertilizer is applied in straight A-B rows. "Backing up the tank is easy, because it doesn't pivot," Holthaus explains. The wheels move vertically. "When you go over a terrace, one of [the wheels] has got to come up." The addition of the wheels in the center helps maintain balance. "With this, it stays more level, because the tires are closer together."
Aside from being rust-resistant, the stainless-steel bottomed Montag tank along with the 2510DH cart is also designed for moving over terraces. "The tank has a low center of gravity," Holthaus says. Because it's mounted on top of the wheels, it also provides stability. "There is no extra added weight to the bar," he says. Weight is added to the tongue instead. "A little bit of tongue weight is good," he explains. "It gives the tractor more traction."
Holthaus can build a cart in about ten days, but would like to make an arrangement with a fabrication shop to move to small batch production. This way, it might take a week to build ten. He is currently taking orders for fall production run. "They like to order tanks 120 days out," he says. "We want to build these for fall application." Anyone interested can reach him at 785-799-4322 or visit his website. For more information, read the April issue of Kansas Farmer.