LEVEL PLAYING FIELDS
There is a lot of uneven ground out there and there are a number of implements that can be used with a small acreage tractor to level things out. Here are a few options.
Grader blades are a good general purpose implement. They are quite versatile because the blade can be manually angled and tilted. They are great for reconditioning driveways, cutting drains and for small areas of levelling.
Basically you have a blade that can scrape a small amount of material with each pass. On soft ground or loose gravel they work very well. If the ground is very hard or the gravel is quite compacted the blade tends to skip over the top rather than cut in. Better grader blades come with rippers attached which loosen up the ground or driveway to make grading easier.
The rippers on grader blades are made of mild steel and more than adequate for your average lifestyle farmer to keep the driveway in order. However with extended use they will eventually wear out. They can be replaced but the entire tine needs to be replaced.
The best models have an offset blade which means that grader blade can be used out to either side of the tractor. This is great for applications along side walls or fence lines.
Box blades are better at tackling larger bumps and hollows than grader blades. The box shape is more suited to moving larger amounts of soil once it has been broken up. This makes the box blade ideal for a task such as levelling out market garden furrows.
You can also move the soil larger distances unlike a grader blade where it will pass out to the side quite quickly.
Box blades with rippers fitted with hardened wear boots that can be replaced as they wear out. This means it is not necessary to replace the complete tines.
If you don’t have a 4 in 1 bucket a box blade is a pretty handy tool to have in the shed.
If you are fortunate enough to acquire a 4-in-1 bucket then you will have a very versatile implement. It has all sorts of uses in addition to levelling but we will concentrate on that here. The best way to level is to open the bucket – the front jaw has a cutting edge facing to the front of the bucket. This is used for light grading and pushing of loose material. The tractor is driven forward to use this cutting edge. Some cutting edges are hardened – check with the dealer if you are buying one as they will last much longer.
Remember this is not a bulldozer. It is designed for pushing or spreading material that has already been excavated. If you need to break soil up use a ripper or backhoe on the rear of the tractor.
The levelling bar is a handy add-on to a 4-in-1 bucket. It is simply grabbed by the bucket and ready to go. The advantage of the levelling bar over just using the bucket is it enables you to smudge out larger areas faster and even a novice can achieve a very smooth tidy finish.
Pastures harrows are good for roughly levelling off small bumps in a larger area. A good use is tidying up piece of ground that has been pugged up by cattle once it has dried out. Or to smooth out ground that has been turned by discs.
Crawler Tractors with Dozer Blade
Finally we will look at the crawler tractor. These can come factory fitted with a 6 way dozer blade. This is the ultimate machine for the small acreage farmer to push or cut the maximum amount of soil when combined with rippers fitted to the rear of the crawler tractor. It is great for levelling out very rough ground or cutting a level pad into a slope.
The hydraulically controlled 6 way blade gives you precise control. An easy to use joystick enables you to lift the blade up and down to control how much material you cut or push at a time. Pushing the blade out to the left or right enables you to doze material out to either side while driving in a straight line. And being able to tilt the blade down to either the left or right enables the ground to be cut on an angle which is perfect for cutting drains or putting a slope on a driveway.
Safety is always the highest priority. Always use a tractor that complies with Australian Standards, including Roll Over Protective Structure, seat belt and protective covers. Only take on tasks within the capability of the machine and operator. Follow all relevant safety warnings, instructions and regulations. Wear appropriate safety equipment and use common sense.
* This article is a general guide only. Conditions vary from site to site. Judgement relating to your individual conditions must be exercised.