Russel Winter with subsurface drip irrigation tape applicator
NEW LIFE: Montgomery County farmer Russel Winter repurposed an old 8-row cultivator into a subsurface drip irrigation tape applicator.

Building a subsurface drip tape applicator on the cheap

Russel Winter wasn't willing to pay $7,000 for an SDI applicator, so he made his own for $2,000.

There seems to be a spot on every farm where old machinery hides to rust away. But that is not the case on Russel Winter Farm in Bellflower, Mo. In fact, Russel Winter finds ways to repurpose old equipment into machines that bring new technology to the farm. Take for instance his custom-made subsurface drip tape applicator.

Winter researched SDI equipment online. But he wasn’t willing to pay $7,000 for a ready-made SDI applicator unit. So, he headed to the one area of the farm holding old, used equipment.

COST EFFECTIVE: Using a few purchased parts and others from around the farm, Russel Winter manufactured his own piece of equipment to lay irrigation drip tape 16 inches below the surface. It beat paying nearly $7,000 for a new machine.

There he saw an 8-row cultivator. “It’s been back in the weeds for years,” Winter says. “I never throw anything away.”

When the Montgomery County corn and soybean farmer saw it, he knew it would make the perfect piece of equipment to lay SDI tape. So, he set to investigating and designing his own version.

Instead of using the entire 8-row cultivator, Winter cut it in half. “It was perfect,” he says.

The cultivator holds the shanks. The shanks dig into the ground. They have a hollow nose where the black tape is fed into the hose reel.

TAPE PLACEMENT: Shanks on applicator allow the plastic tape or tubing to easily pass through the snout as the tractor pulls it through the field.

Realizing he could not create the shank tooth and shin guard used in laying the tape, Winter called Rain-Flo, a Pennsylvania irrigation company, and asked if the company would sell just the shanks. “We talked about my specifications, and sure enough they came to the farm ready to bolt on,” he says. “They fit like a hand in a glove.”

The two shanks cost roughly $900. Winter also purchased the spool holder for the drip tape.

With a little sweat and few manhours to put the do-it yourself SDI applicator together, he estimates the cost at less than $2,000 for the unit.

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