Ripper redesigned for maize

Already popular among cane growers, the Kengem floating paravane ripper has now been adapted for use in maize lands. Joe Spencer reports.

The new Kengem ripper.
Photo: Joe Spencer

We first reported on the Kengem floating paravane ripper in our 15 July 2011 issue, when it was making a name for itself in KwaZulu-Natal’s sugarcane industry. Since then, inventor and designer Ken Sclanders has been approached by a number of maize farmers eager to see if his Root Improvement Management System (RIMP) can be as effective in maize, optimising yields while decreasing costs and reducing compaction.

The RIMP’s defining element is, of course, the floating paravane, a 200mm-wide hinged plate attached to the rear of the ripper tine. This lifts and loosens the soil up to a depth of 400mm, without bringing anything to the surface. The paravane on the maize version isn’t wedge-shaped, as it is on the cane implement. This is because maize cultivation is invariably performed at a faster pace than cane and the original shape was too ‘vigorous’ at speeds over 8km/h.

Ken introduced the new version of the Kengem to some very influential maize farmers at a recent trial day at Lestor Vickers’ Waterloo Farm in the Bergville district. After they’d looked at the excellent maize trial plots, the farmers examined the prototype ripper and were invited to make comments and suggestions as to how the system would fit in with their current or future planting systems.

The proposed version of the maize Kengem has spring-loaded disc coulters to cut through crop residue and floating heavy cage rollers at the rear, which firm the surface and close up the groove cut by the tine. It’s also fitted with an automatic trip mechanism to protect the tines.

Lifted and loosened without inversion
A normal maize land wasn’t available at Lestor Vickers’ Waterloo Farm at this time of year, as harvesting had already started near Bergville, so an old grassland area was used for the trials. This proved very interesting as the Kengem’s spring-loaded coulters cut through the turf cleanly and demonstrated perfectly that there’s no inversion of the soil.

Good results
At the demonstration there was nothing to see on the surface, except for the fact that the soil was effectively lifted, so there was a lot of interest in the pit dug to view the effect underground. Here it was found that the soil was loosened to a depth of about 350mm at a width of 200mm at the bottom and wider at the top.

The maize paravane.

This created an excellent basis for maximum root penetration and a perfect seed bed for optimum seed germination. Inventor Ken Sclanders pointed out that the unit construction allows for an infinite variation in the number of rows, row widths, operating depths and the width of the paravane. There is also the possibility of incorporating fertiliser application systems, which will make the unit ideal for a strip-till operation.