From planting through harvest, producing a rice crop involves
a multitude of inputs. Although there’s always plenty of
discussion about seed varieties and hybrids, pest control
products and fertilizer, the “iron factor” – all of the equipment
parked under your shed – also is critical to the success of your
crop and the health of your operation’s bottom line.
Victor Hinze, who farms near Heth, Ark., says his motto at harvest
time is “to cut every day, all day.” And to help him
do that efficiently, he runs a Case IH 8120 combine
with a 35-foot MacDon draper header and a
Soucy Track system in wet field conditions.
Hinze, who, at the age of three, began going to the
rice fields with his daddy, started farming on his
own when he was 19. He has seen equipment get
larger and heavier through the years, which played
a role in his decision to invest in a Soucy Track
system in 2009.
“It was just wet in ’09,” he says. “We had a 35-
foot MacDon draper header on a combine that was
digging into the ground all day. After we got the
track system set up, we were able to pick up 184
bushels of rice per acre out of the dirt and save wear and tear on our
Victor’s son, Shane, who also is a rice producer, remembers 2009’s
wet harvest conditions.
“At the time, I was running a Case IH 8010 with a 35-foot MacDon
draper header and 20.8 dual tires,” Shane says. “The machine just
sunk. That’s the first time I’ve ever had a combine stuck in my life.
Once we got the tracks, it took us about 2 and one-half hours to take
the duals off and put the tracks on.”
Victor says it’s true that 2009 was a bad year that hit everybody,
and, although the track system helped him and Shane get their crops
out without tearing up the ground, some people questioned the decision
to buy tracks, chalking it up to what could turn into a one-year
Victor says for him the tracks are worth it.
“There’s not a monetary figure you can put on the tracks when you consider that they saved our equipment and kept us from having
to spend a lot of money to repair the ruts that tires would have made,”
Auto steer, tracks and muddy conditions
Brothers Terry and Jeffrey Boothe, who farm with their dad, Glenn,
near Walnut Ridge, Ark., bought two sets of Soucy tracks during
the rainy fall of 2009 because the floater tires don’t
work well for them on their soils.
“The track system solves a problem (wet field
conditions) that can’t be controlled,” Terry says.
“Our combines are older models, and if we ever
decide to trade them, we are keeping the tracks.
When it’s wet, we can get in the field faster, have less
field work to do after harvest, burn the least amount
of fuel and spend the least amount of money.
“We have Soucy Track systems on both of our
combines, and we also have John Deere Auto Steer
on both machines,” he adds. “We’ve found that the
Auto Steer works well with the track system in mud
and doesn’t work as well in mud with tires.”
Terry adds that it’s nice to be able to watch the header and not
have to steer. He says after harvest is over, they just take off the
tracks, wash and grease them and store them in the shed.
Another Arkansas rice producer, who farms mostly no-till on
heavy, gumbo ground, has been running tracks on his combines for
the past three years and tracks on his grain carts for 15 years. He
says, “A track machine will go where a wheel machine won’t think
He also notes that after a 2 and ½-inch rain and a day of sunshine,
he can get back in the field with tracks and not create any ruts.
Making tracks in crawfish country
Although farmers in many other areas turn to the track system
during a wet fall, Dwain Buller, who farms rice, soybeans and crawfish
in southeast St. Landry Parish, La., close to the Atchafalaya
Basin, says tracks on combines is all he has ever known.
Innovative Specialty Equipment Is Money Well Spent
“I didn’t even know that companies
made combines with tires when I was a
kid,” he says.
Buller recalls that years ago, farmers
in his area would run steel tracks
and bolt three-foot 3 x 3 oak boards on
every other pad to keep from getting
bogged down. They ran their first rubber
tracks in 1995 and 1996, then
bought into the Soucy Track system.
Purposely keep fields moist at harvest
“We use tracks every year,” Buller
says. “We just leave them on the combine.
We like to keep the field moist
during harvest to make sure that the
crawfish that have burrowed down in
the mud have enough water. If the
ground gets too dry, then the crawfish
“We use tracks to keep from rutting
up the fields in those wet conditions,” he
adds. “If a field is dry enough for us to
run tires, then it is drier than I want it to
be for my crawfish.”
More productivity, heavier equipment
Marc McDonald, regional manager
for Soucy International Inc., estimates
that the cost of repairing the land that
was rutted up during a wet harvest is a
tremendous added expense.
“If it takes two or three passes to clean up the field in the spring, that
process can get very expensive,” he
says. “Whereas a rice field, or any field,
that has been cut on tracks will have
very little ground disturbance. That in
itself is money.”
McDonald also notes that the fields
haven’t changed and the ground has not
changed, but equipment has changed to
increase productivity, and more productivity
means more weight.
“As farm machinery gets bigger and
heavier, it has to have a better platform
to carry it across the field,” he says.
“Using a track system is a way to provide
that platform without destroying
the ground surface.”
Today, each product a rice farmer selects to grow a healthy, profitable
crop is critical to the success of the operation. However, “the
iron factor” that comes into play to get the crop in, apply inputs efficiently
and get the crop out at harvest must be given careful consideration,
Every rice farming operation has its own unique equipment mix
needed to produce the best crop possible, so don’t forget to size up
your iron when planning for 2012.
Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.