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Roto Hoe

2130 Views 38 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Charles Prestridge
Roto hoes (aka crust busters) can be had for dirt cheap now because nobody uses them anymore. I can pick up a 15' John Deere locally for $300.

I've read people use these to aerate hay fields, but also go over the field with a roto hoe prior to seeding or fertilizing and it helps to get the seed or fertilizer incorporated into the soil better/faster.

So I'm going to be doing some frost seeding and then later this spring some over seeding.

Do you think the above idea has merit, as in would it be worth the small investment to pick one up and run it over the field prior to seeding or fertilizing?

What I"m more concerned about is having another piece of junk sitting around that is difficult to sell if it doesn't work so well.
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8 years ago. Back when we all enjoyed this forum. I didn’t ask a question it came up as part of a discussion and seems they could still have a usefulness to them. A lot of old names that we don’t hear from or have passed on that provided us with a wealth of information.
This thread is basically discussing the same idea I had. The main objective for me is to enhance seed to soil exposure. If it incorporates fertilizer better or aerates that’s a plus, but I don’t have a drill or tillage equipment (just a Brillion) and have been thinking about ways to maximize the germination of seed.

I was going to frost seed a ryegrass mixture into my horse pastures, which are pretty much buzzed down like golf greens right now. Even those I was thinking about going over with a rotary hoe first, if that is of merit, and then seeding in the morning, when the ground is frozen. However I also have another field that I am going to burn later this spring to remove all the residue, and I was wondering if going over that with a hoe while soft after a light rain, and then running my Brillion seeder packer over it to drop some orchard grass in there, would be more effective than just the Brillion over seeding.
There are two locally to me, one is the John Deere I first mentioned and there's a second 15' that's actually a fold up unit. That one's 45-60 min away and he's asking $450 and the JD is in town and they're asking $350. Fold up does sound appealing as I could store it indoors easily. If I get one I'll report back eventually with how it turned out.

Ideally I'd hoe just half the field and see which side turns out best but seed is too expensive for that.
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I thought the basic theory behind roto hoes was use in fully tilled ground, usually finer grained like silty and clayey to break the crust for beans primarily. Those soils in full tillage have a tendency to slake over and break shoots as they try to emerge. So to break up the "plates" and not hurt the shoots, the engineered penetration should be pretty low. My thinking is that they are not going to do much in sod. I am like you, spent the last 4-5 years liquidating anything just rusting that was not being actively used and do not want to reverse the trend. Otherwise, I would have a 3 pt roller etc just in case. Chain harrows with the aggressive side down do a pretty good job and have multiple uses including touching up the driveway if it is gravel.

on a side note, I bought a GP NT Drill in partnership with a buddy for overseeding. Had it set perfectly and sowed 20# KY 31 in a paddock in oct 2022. Not a sprig can I find. I have no idea what happened. There is plenty of population there already, I was just going after holes here and there. As has been said before, no guarantees in farming other than expenses. :cry:
I was watching a video of a guy using one for over seeding a hay field, and it would put a bunch of little holes in the dirt that exposed soil contact for the seed. In this case I think it would be ideal to not go too deep if it's for seeding.
Will my Ford 4610 (63 horse) be enough tractor to lift it? Rear lift is 3080 pounds…that’s almost as much as my Mustang. Are those hoes that heavy ?
In this video at 3:27 it shows all the little holes it makes in established sod. I'd like to think in a spring field with no residue, that all those little holes would be nice for seeds to fall into and get some soil contact.

I picked it up today for $350. I figure for that price you can’t really go wrong. It’s a 15’ Kewanee. It actually came with the owner’s manual which is more helpful than I would have thought. From that I learned it weighs around 1500 pounds, and that it can also be used for aerating and incorporating herbicide or fertilizer into the soil faster, as well as loosening up the sod layer. We’ll see; this is kind of an experiment for me to get the most effective seeding I can and I’m not out a lot of money, and it’s always fun to drag in a new toy and learn to use it.

I did learn the wheels can be reversed and then it works more like a cultipacker to prepare seedbeds, level and break up clots.

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I may hoe just half of one of my fields that I'm not overseeding, just to assess the aeration/fertilizer incorporation potential, to see if it is noticeably different than the other half of the field.

Will be hard to assess if it helps with seeding because the fields that are being overseeded will be hoed in their entirety and if the seed takes well, will be impossible to know if the hoe had anything to do with it.
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Josh, how about leaving a few test strips? We will be waiting with bated breath.
That's a good idea. I might leave a strip right down the middle unaltered in one of the fields. That would just show if there's any benefit to the aeration and fertilizer incorporation. Honestly I don't think it will be much, if any, but I will get my drone up in the air and if the difference is observable then you guys are all going to be running out to find you a hoe.

I'm frost seeding my pastures, and I can leave a part un-hoed to see if the seeding takes worse. I've never had any overseeding take on these pastures so I don't have high hopes this time either. I think I need to get soil pH and fertility improved. But maybe the pasture just needs a good hoe down first.

Then in April I will be burning off a field, hoeing it, and then overseeding it with a late maturing OG with my Brillion. Probably no control group there as seed is expensive and I want to maximize germination and yield.
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That will drive the price up on them. lol There is an international hoe for $1400. Didn't even take a 2nd look
There were two hoes in my area (actually there’s a lot more than that if you go downtown) and one was $350 and one was $450. Even at those prices they’d been sitting on them forever. I got the $450 one because it folded and gave him $350 for it. The guy in your area asking $1400 is out of his mind.

When buying these things you have to keep in mind the option of reselling if it doesn’t work out for you. I already knew I’d have to sell for really cheap if I wanted to get rid of it so therefore wasn’t prepared to pay much to begin with.
How an implement that was designed to operate in "softer type soil" that has been recently planted to a crop such as Cotton or Corn seedlings to break crust if soil has received hard rain so tender plants can emerge or remove small weeds/grass will do much for soil aeration is a mystery to me. I can't envision the tiny, shallow divot that rotary hoe point will create will be much aid in planted seed germination.
Jim you may be right. According to Virginia Tech you need a hole 1-6 inches deep for for aeration, but machines that remove plugs of soil rather than solid spikes will aerate better, as they say solid spikes can actually lead to compaction (as would be the case with a roto hoe). In sod the hoe doesn't tear up small weeds but just makes a bunch of little holes. I don't think it would be effective for aeration and that's not really my main goal. In fact sounds like it could actually be a bad idea.

For seed germination, I'm not planting seed, I'm drop seeding with my Brillion and packing it, but it's not on tilled ground, just a burned or scalped field or frost seeding, so I'm trying to increase seed to soil contact. Now that's something I've seen Mike suggest as well.
I had my first hoe down tonight. I did my pastures so I can frost seed them. The ground has been pretty wet and is drying out enough to where it’s just soft now.

As you can see from the pics the hoe did a nice job making lots of little pockets for the seed to fall into and have some soil contact.

It definitely does zing things. I went over a few sticks and they flew about 10 feet up in the air behind me. I was going about 6 mph and that’s about all the faster I could go as the pastures are fairly small. This is definitely not convenient for small areas as you have to lift it up when taking corners.

It is a pain in the ass to hook up and unhook so there will be a learning curve there.

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I was unable to frost seed because it snowed the very next day after hoeing the pastures. Now the holes are pretty much closed up. So it needs to be something done immediately prior to seeding, which is a bummer because I'm not going to have another opportunity where the ground is firm enough but soft enough to hoe it again prior to frost seeding while the ground is frozen. This has been such a weird transition to spring.
Just an update to share. I seeded the pastures, and rotohoed the ground immediately before seeding. The ground was pretty soft so it hoed well. Right away I realized that the front packer on my Brillion seeder appeared to be packing all the little holes closed that the hoe just made. Therefore the idea of having little holes for seed to fall into might not work with a Brillion-type seeder, but probably would work well with a broadcast seeder followed by cultipacking.

However, what it did do well was exposing more soil to pack seed on to, because even though the seed might not have been falling into the little holes made by the implement, it was still falling onto the bare soil spots where the holes was just packed shut.. Perhaps the biggest benefit was serving as a marker to show where you've already been. The holes get packed shut once they've been driven over them so that makes it as clear as night and day where you've already been. These pastures were like a golf green. They were grazed down about as short as they could be before being bare dirt, so there was almost no residue.

I also think I'm going to try a set of Pat's Quick Hitch links, which will make dropping the hoe and hooking up the Brilion a lot faster and easier.
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