The Soil-Max Gold Digger Stealth ZD is the current plow offering from Soil-Max. We have been using the pull-type version since 2011, when it was first released, and have so far installed around 2 million feet with both our own unit, and with several demo units. Based on customer feedback and our own observations of conditions and equipment in western Canada, we asked Soil-Max to build us some custom ‘Heavy Duty” units for 2015. The main difference is that these have larger capacity hydraulic cylinders and a stronger main beam, and are features we believe are beneficial to our market where we have some very hard-pulling soils and clients chaining on several very powerful tractors.
The Stealth ZD pull-type has a working depth of around 6.5 feet. Depending on the soil type and size of tile being installed, this may be slightly reduced due to to the volume of soil that’s displaced and pushed upwards (bigger tile and heavier soils tend to produce more dirt that is pushed upwards, and going too deep may result in dirt falling into the top of the tile boot, and causing the tile to jam inside it).
The plow is capable of installing 3″ to 10″ tile using available tile boots (boots come in 4″, 6″, 8″, and 10″ sizes). It is possible to install 3″ tile via the 4″ tile boot with no issues, and in theory you can also install 4″ tile via the 6″ tile boot. It’s generally always best to use the matching sized tile boot, but if you have a 6″ boot on the plow and just have a few hundred feet of 4″ to install then go ahead and run it through the 6″ boot. As of now, we have not sold or witnessed anyone using a 10″ boot and installing 10″ tile with this plow – our general advice would be to either plow multiple 8″ tiles, or to dig in a double-walled main pipe before we’d attempt to plow 10″ with this setup.
Grade is controlled via the plow’s pitch. Using Intellislope is the preferred method, although the plows can be controlled by most available systems that are designed for pitch plows. Our experience has been that grade control and tile placement has been very accurate. A slow and steady operator is definitely an important part of the process, as we’ve seen times where the plow has come slightly off grade where the operator has taken off too fast from the start hole. Start out as slowly as you can while the plow is first coming under load! The Intellislope system does have a feature called start compensation that is designed to compensate for this initial squat, however we’ve found it’s still best to start out slow.
Ease of pulling has always been a claim of this plow. We agree that it pulls surprisingly easily when you consider the depths and width of material you are installing. To say that a 300HP tractor can pull it in western Canadian ground may be a slight exaggeration (although it probably would pull just fine if installing 4″ tile at 3-4ft depths). Generally, we either pre-rip or hook on two 4WD tractors for any pull where we are installing 6″ tile deeper than around 4 feet, and for all pulls with 8″ tile. In the event you come to a halt it is almost always due to loss of traction rather than not having enough horsepower. Our favorite tractors for tiling are either those with creeper gears (going slower means it takes a lot more to stop you), or a big 4WD with lots of weight and ideally big singles over duals. On some model tractors we’ve found their slowest speed is still a little too fast. The faster you drive, the more force is acting on the plow, and therefore the less it takes before you lose traction. So far, the best pulling tractor we’ve used is the Versatile 550DT Creeper as that let us go at under 1mph and we could plow 6″ pipe as deep as the plow would go. Surface conditions also play a big part, and wet, greasy ground will cause you to spin out much sooner than drier ground.
Reliability of the plows has been very good. We’ve been using and selling them since 2012, and have had very few support or warranty cases that weren’t simple to solve. One area that care should be taken is to ensure your hydraulic plugs and system are clean as the proportional valves on the plows can be prone to issues if dirt gets into them. Other than that, failure to perform regular greasing and checking that bolts are tight are the main reasons people have had issues.
Some of the available accessories for the plow include a power tile feeder and walking tandem beams. We run both on our own plow and wouldn’t go back now we’ve used them. The power feeder simply helps feed in the tile, and reduces possible stretch in the pipe. This really helps in warmer weather, and also where the field is in corn, sunflower, or canola stubble as it seems to help stop the pipe getting snagged and stretched on the stalks. With larger pipe the feeder also helps ensure that connections don’t get pulled apart as they pass into the boot. The walking tandems really help smooth out the ride of the plow, which is a real benefit on rough fields. Because the wheels really have little effect on tile placement when installing, it’s more the survey runs that the tandem beam provides a smoother run with less vibration and bounding around of the GPS equipment – leading to better survey accuracy and allowing you to go a little faster.
- Does exactly what the manufacturer says it does
- Accurate tile placement
- Simple to operate – anyone can learn this quickly!
- When used with Intellislope this is hands-down the best system for a farmer
What We’d Change
- Not much!
- A shield to prevent soil entering the top of the boot would be a nice feature
- In the future we’d like to see a plow that could install to 7+ feet (but equally in many ways it’s probably better that you scrape down or trench when you need to be that deep!)