When ridge-till farmer Brady Jass traded in his old planter, he found himself without row cleaners. He needed them to clean trash from the ridges that had built up the previous year through cultivation.

Jass not only farms but owns B&H Manufacturing, manufacturer of row cleaners and row-crop cultivators. Jass and his father, Harvey, started the business back in 1982 in their machine shed because they weren't satisfied with what was on the market. Since then, the business has moved from the shed to an 18, 000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility to keep up with demand.

This latest predicament gave Jass the chance to try something he had been thinking about for years. The idea would lead to an entirely new category of equipment.

Separate pass seedbed preparation. Rather than equip the new planter with B&H row cleaners, Jass thought, why not put the row cleaners on their own toolbar, separate from the planter, and put rotary hoes behind it? That way, a farmer can enter the field early, when the soil is too cold and wet to plant, and pre-clean the rows and loosen the soil, thereby speeding up warming and drying time.

Jass brought the idea to his design team, and immediately they started building. They took the basic design of B&H row cleaners and made some minor alterations to get them to work on their own toolbar. Then they added the rotary hoes. They rigged up an electric actuator to raise and lower the row cleaners. A hydraulic cylinder raises and lowers the rotary hoes independent of the cleaners to match field conditions: down in wet pockets to aerate; up if the soil is dry.

The toolbar mounts to a tractor's 3-pt. hitch and is raised and lowered with the tractor's hydraulics. A gauge wheel controls depth and adjusts in 1/16-in. increments with a turn of a screw.

For now, they are calling the tool the Row Buster. "It allows you to enter the field in less than ideal conditions to help make conditions ideal," says Dave Cushman, salesperson with B&H . He explains that clearing trash and loosening soil prior to planting gives the sun a chance to warm the soil. Temperature is one factor that germinates seed. "Black absorbs heat and warms the seedbed for better crop stand and germination," Cushman says.

Conversely, when you plant and clean at the same time, you are not improving conditions and could be mudding in seed, he says. "You're just clearing and putting in seed without changing temperature of the soil." Because the Row Buster improves field conditions ahead of planting, planting dates may be moved up. That's especially important with farm consolidation. "Farms are getting bigger. Time management becomes an important tool," Cushman notes.

Use of the Row Buster also keeps the planter cleaner, and the new machine eliminates the need to retrofit row cleaners each time you switch planters.

Tested by farmers. Minnesota ridge-till farmers Garvin Vis and his son Todd farm 1,900 acres of corn and soybeans in a geographical bowl that is prone to flooding. The spring of 1997 was so wet they couldn't plant corn until May 2. Soybeans were delayed until the first week of June. "We knew we had to do something," Todd says.

They had heard about B&H's new tool and called to inquire later that spring. The company set them up with a 12-row vertical-fold prototype the following spring with an option to buy after the test.

This year, because their fields were drier than normal, Todd ran the Row Buster one to two hours ahead of their planter, which Garvin drove. "If it were last year, we would have run it one to two days prior," Todd says.

Todd could go 8 to 9 mph with the new tool, almost double the maximum planter speed. As a result, he was able to stop and keep his dad supplied with seed and fertilizer.

Their reactions? "It seems to be doing an excellent job," Todd says. "On wetter years, it could save us a week."

They plan to buy the tool if it is priced appropriately.

Not just for ridge till. Cushman says the Row Buster has applications for not only ridge till but also strip till, no-till andconventional till. He asks, "How many black fields do you see anymore? There's always some trash, which holds moisture and gives the soil less opportunity to dry at planting time."

Another use could be to band fertilizer by replacing the rotary hoes with fertilizer knives or coulters. "Everybody talks about the importance of fertilizer placement so you get the fertilizer to the most desirable place," Cushman says. "Imagine a gray field of cornstalks versus a plowed black field. If you could clean a band 6 to 8 in. wide to blacken the strip, you would know where you need to go."

Because the concept is so new, he anticipates other uses as well. "You could show it to five guys, and they would come up with six different uses."

The Row Buster is available in 4 to 16 rows with the option of a rigid or folding bar. Cost is undetermined. Contact B&H Mfg., Dept. FIN, Rt. 1, Box 53-A, Jackson, MN 56143, 800/240-3288.