Challenger Tractors: Through The Mud

Even when the ground is wet, Curtis Berry relies on his Challenger track tractors to lessen compaction and help increase yields.

By Boyce Upholt | Photos By Rory Doyle

Building a thriving rice farm on one of the last stretches of uncleared land in the Delta has its challenges, says Curtis Berry, who farms some 4,500 acres just southwest of Memphis, near the region’s northern tip. The closest rice mill, for example, is in the central Delta, in Cleveland, Miss. “And we’re 82 miles from Cleveland right here,” says Berry.

Curtis Berry

Curtis Berry

In order to dry their rice—800,000 bushels in last year’s harvest—Berry’s on-farm GSI storage is essential. He prefers the brand because of its durability, which allows it to withstand year after year of abuse.

Then there’s the fieldwork itself, which even in zero-grade rice farming is wet work, requiring specialized equipment. “When you’re going over a piece of ground, the further you can spread your footprint, the less compaction you have, and that helps the soil,” Berry explains. “You make better crops on soil that’s not compacted.”

That’s why the Berrys, once Case and John Deere customers, converted to Challenger® tractors in 1995. “That track technology is really what got us,” Berry says about his current fleet of Challenger tractors, which includes two MT765D track tractors. On soils that he describes as “heavy clays that are wet-natured,” Berry says his track models do “a very good job of flotation.”

“You can get into a field earlier than you could with a wheel tractor,” he continues. “And when you can travel across a field without leaving a rut, that helps everything.”

The Berrys have been impressed with the fuel efficiency of recent Challenger models. In addition to the track tractors, the Berrys’ fleet includes four Challenger MT665D models, which they use for ditching, mowing, spraying and light tillage, and three Challenger MT545D tractors used for mowing.

Before planting, Berry tills the field with a Sunflower® disc harrow. “Sunflower is synonymous with durability,” Berry says. “That’s what it takes in these tough soils.”

Berry calls Thompson Agriculture, his local AGCO supplier, a “great partner” that has provided him with an essential fleet of products. “Thompson Ag has a very knowledgeable and capable parts and service team to keep me running,” he says.

<< See Berry’s full story, “Jungle to Farm”