Missouri farmer uses tractor as versatile sprayer, taking advantage of a front-end tractor hitch and front-mounted tanks.
PATRICK TURNAGE, who farms with his father, Sonny, and uncle, Duke, says a front hitch gives his John Deere tractor more versatility.”
When Patrick Turnage was growing up, his family farm always sprayed with a planter, but for speed and convenience, they started using a large sprayer. They planted cotton with three cotton planters and chased them with one large sprayer to apply pre-emergence and postemergence herbicides.
This spring, Turnage thought he was going to be shorthanded on labor so he decided to return to spraying with planters, which he had not done in about four or five years. He priced side-mounted tank systems and found their cost had risen since the last time he purchased some. “So I decided to utilize the money we had invested in a hitch on the front end of the tractor installed in 2011 to move our round modules,” said Turnage, who farms with his father, Sonny, and uncle, Duke Turnage, near Hayti, Mo.
“All I needed was a toolbar and tanks. I priced out tanks and found some 300-gallon elliptical tanks. We calculated their water/chemical weight versus the cotton module weight – the hitch handles 13,000 pounds – and realized the weight of full tanks would be no trouble.”
Turnage and his father went to welding. The design is uncomplicated, so the unit was simple to plumb. The hydraulics were already on the front of the tractor because of the hitch. All Turnage had to do was add a supply line and a hard pump pressure line so he could monitor the pump pressure from the cab.
The construction time took about two and a half days, including painting and plumbing. Turnage bought tanks and saddles for the tanks, welded the saddles to the toolbar and braced it up.
“It only takes about 10 minutes to hook or unhook the spray system, compared to about three hours with a conventional side-tank system. All I have to do is disconnect two hydraulic lines, a three-quarter inch supply line and my three-eighths inch pump pressure hard line. It’s a slip-in and slip-out connection. I set it down like you unhook a cultivator or anything on a 3-point hitch.
Spray while planting
“By building that front-end tank system, I can spray with my planter and put out my pre-emerge herbicide at planting. Also, through the summer, I can use that tractor to run a hooded sprayer or do a layby with a cultivator or a rolling rig. Or I can spray with a spray boom. Essentially, I’ve turned the tractor into a sprayer. I can use this rig in cotton, beans and my other crops. It will do any spray application.”
Increased visibility with the front-tank system “was a total shock to me,” Turnage says. “I thought the front tanks would hinder my vision to some degree, but actually you can see more off this set up than you can with side-mounted tanks.”
Turnage’s system costs less than half the price of side-mounted tanks. “A pair of side-mounted tanks was going to cost me about $4,000, plus I was going to have to take off my front duals. Then this fall I was going to have to put my front duals back on to move my round cotton modules.
“This is a self-contained system. When we unhook it and put it down, that’s it until we’re ready to use it again. The key to this setup is the Laforge front hitch, which is universal in many applications. We already use it to move round modules. Now I’m starting to see other benefits of having that front hitch, which gives us more versatility.”
Better use of equipment
Moving round modules was Turnage’s primary reason for purchasing the front hitch, which spreads out the cost of owning a tractor. “You’re taking a piece of equipment that you’ve paid $200,000 for and utilizing it more,” he says. “Additionally, the operator is more comfortable because he’s driving the tractor like it’s a forklift. He’s looking forward all day long instead of over his shoulder. Forklifts have the forks mounted on the front for a reason.
Cut operator fatigue
“A front quick hitch isn’t common in the United States like it is in Europe, but if a grower would commit and purchase a quality front hitch, the opportunities are endless.”
After he researched the front quick hitch on the Internet, Turnage had his local John Deere dealer order the hitch and install it for him. “The installation cost depends on what the tractor dealer charges for their labor,” he says. “It only takes about 3 hours to 4 hours to install it. You can get a hitch installed on a new tractor from the factory if you order it that way. They have hitches that will fit any tractor manufactured.”
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Laforge is the supplier for John Deere and provides aftermarket installations at the dealer level for Case IH, New Holland, Massey-Ferguson and Challenger.
Turnage’s John Deere tractor has a non-suspended front axle, requiring a frame for the hitch that anchors it to the transmission housing. With a suspended axle, the hitch starts a little under $10,000. A non-suspended costs an additional $2,000.
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