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Rice is a tough act to follow, especially when it’s rice following rice on Duane Gaither’s blue gumbo near Hoxie, Ark.

Gaither’s Clover Bend Farms includes 2,700 acres of continuous rice. It’s a crop that demands a good, even seedbed and there was a time when achieving that meant trip after trip with discs, field cultivators and floats.

For the past five years, though, Gaither has essentially replaced all that iron with one tool — the Kelly Diamond Harrow.

If it weren’t for the Kellys, I wouldn’t be following rice with rice,” says Gaither who now has three 45-ft. Kellys. “It’s a hard crop to follow because of the thick root mass and the tremendous amount of straw you have to deal with. This is a very versatile tool,
though. I got rid of all my discs and all my field cultivators and we don’t mess with the floats anymore.”

Getting a good residue burn is essential, Gaither explains. After harvest, three trips over the ground with a Kelly Diamond Harrow readies the ground for burning. The Kelly works shallow, fluffing the residue to the surface and leaving the soil where it belongs. One of Gaither’s Kellys is equipped with a prickle chain — welded chain with four high-grade steel spikes welded through each link. The chains fill furrows, level ridges and lift the residue to the surface.

The result is a clean, consistent burn. Then, two or three post-burn trips with the Kelly put fields in drill-ready condition.

“You can get in there when the ground is too wet for a disc or field cultivator,” Gaither notes. “We can have ground worked and drilled before we could even get in there with anything else. You can pull it fast and it leaves the ground in good shape. For us, it’s the ideal field tool.”

Although creating a good seedbed is job 1, speed and economy are all-important concerns. With his three units, Gaither can cover 1,200 acres per day. He figures his fuel cost at less than $2 per acre for three trips across the field with the Kellys — far less than diesel-drinking field cultivator and float operations.

And, the Kelly Diamond Harrow is highly dependable.

“As far as major problems, we just haven’t had any,” Gaither says. “The secret is to keep the chains tight. We check them every morning before we start. It’s pretty simple. There are four tensioners to check and you can do it in a matter of minutes. It’s a very simple, trouble-free machine.”

And that’s exactly what it’s designed to be. The Kelly Diamond Harrow’s blades are wear-guaranteed for 50,000 acres and the swivel bearings are guaranteed for 10,000 acres. Although he’s never had to replace a bearing, Gaither says it would be easily accomplished and the harrow comes with a spare to minimize down-time if he ever does.

Sturdy construction and easy maintenance are important to Gaither because some of his soil is exceedingly tough on equipment.

“I’ve got some gumbo land that I’ve tried everything on, and the Kelly handles it far better than anything,” he says. “It’s a marvelous tool for heavy gumbo but it works great on all of our ground — it works well on blue gumbo and light sand and everything in-between.”

Gaither was the first farmer in the country to give the Kelly Diamond Harrow a try. That was over three years ago and thousands of acres later, he’s glad he did.

“I’ve always had a tendency to try something new,” he says. “You have to constantly be on the lookout for a better way to farm and the Kelly has given us a better way to grow rice. We have been very pleased.”