Cultivation kit for growers

Multi-tasking models benefit the environment and the pocket by saving labour and fuel, says Sally Drury.

Tillerstar: the machine prepares the land for crops grown in beds in a single operation - image: George Moate
Tillerstar: the machine prepares the land for crops grown in beds in a single operation - image: George Moate

Not long ago, much of your time would have been spent repeatedly running tractors and implements up and down fields to prepare them for crops. With two or more tractors, you could cultivate in sequence — the first tractor with a plough or cultivator, the second perhaps with equipment to remove stones and then a third with a bed former.

Nowadays, a wide range of multitasking and single-pass cultivation equipment saves time, labour and fuel, which is good for the pocket and the environment.

One-pass solution

A recent introduction, the British-built Tillerstar, has sent ripples through the sector. Manufactured by George Moate, the machine combines in one operation the preparation of land for all crops grown in beds. The Tillerstar removes the need to use different implements to cultivate, remove stones and set up the beds.

"This one-pass approach not only saves a grower thousands of pounds in capital and running costs, but it also reduces his carbon footprint by making significant savings in fuel," says George Moate managing director Richard Pratt.

The implement can work in stubble without any preceding cultivation and uses a PTO-driven horizontal rotor to cultivate the soil, which is then thrown on to four star rollers that retain sizeable stones or soil clods, as loose soil falls through.

The stones and clods are moved forward by the rollers, dropped into the void behind the rotor and covered by the sieved soil as the machine proceeds. The result is a clean bed up to 35cm deep. Material is distributed evenly beneath the full width of the bed – other separation techniques tend to leave material concentrated in rows between beds that require redistribution after harvest.

There are single-, double- and triple-bed sizes available, with a choice of 1.82m and 2m widths. Output is about 10 acres a day.

"We've created several adjustable forming hoods that leave ideal beds for planting onion sets, potatoes, leeks, beetroots and similar crops, as well as carrots," says Pratt. "There are also applicator mounting kits for fertiliser and chemical treatments."

After a successful first season on British farms, this year the Tillerstar is available to growers in Ireland. George Moate also offers a range of conventional ridge tillers, bed tillers and haulm toppers for potatoes and other vegetable and salad crops.

All-in-one machine

A subsoiler and cultivator in one, the Gregoire Besson Helios double-frame subsoiler was launched last year and is capable of working down to 40cm for root crops but also as shallow as 20cm. The Helios is available from 3m mounted up to 7m trailed and consists of Michel subsoil legs at the front and a choice of rear implement/packer, including rear discs, crumbler or Emopak.

The latest in Gregoire Besson's cultivator range is the Helidisc. It uses hydraulically adjustable front and back discs that are independently controlled to provide a more level finish. This increases the choice of tines that can be mounted, as well as reducing the machine's length.

The Helidisc is available in two models. One is for use on light to medium land, and has a front row of in-line discs, three rows of spring-loaded Eurocult tines, another row of in-line discs and a double Emopak press. The tines can work 30cm below the discs and the front gangs run in opposite directions to the rear, providing a better mix and precise depth control. The 242mm spacing between the tines and range of points and wings allows all of the soil to be cultivated.

The second model is built for work on medium to heavy soil, with the spring-loaded tines being replaced with either Discordon tines, which go 30cm below the discs, or with Helios (Michel) or LD straight tines, both of which go 40cm below the discs. The tines are spaced at 484mm, but the disc spacing remains the same. A choice of double Emopak roller or a single larger roller is also available.

"In tests, we found that the flow of the land behind the tines becomes slightly raised, so we developed the independently adjustable depth on the front and rear discs to give maximum control in all conditions, providing a more level finish," says Gregoire Besson UK managing director Robin Immink.

At LAMMA, the farm machinery, equipment and services show held in Newark last month, Opico launched a new version of the 4.78m-wide Maschio Pantera rotary cultivator, modified specifically for vegetable growers. The model is fitted with wheels instead of a packer roller, giving more above-ground clearance for mulching bulky crop residues such as cabbages and cauliflowers.

With the wheels weighing less than a pack roller, the machine can be used on a smaller tractor, yet still has the width to maximise work rates. The Pantera's blades can work down to 29cm, the wheel settings being adjustable to allow better control of working depth when rotavating row and bed crops.

Hydraulic depth control allows the operator to adjust the rotavator's working height from the cab. The transportation width is 2.5m.

Other features include Duo-cone waterproof bearings. The unit weighs 2,900kg, is suited to 300hp tractors and costs £31,629 + VAT.

One of the first growers to use the new one-pass Tillerstar says the system takes at least two operations out of the usual process, reducing labour costs and capital investment in machinery.

Charles Davison used a three-bed version of the George Moate Tillerstar for the first time last year, preparing 164 acres of abrasive Norfolk sand at West Bilney for onions. The machine combines cultivation, stone/clod separation and bed forming in one implement.

"Normally, we subsoil and sometimes plough before setting up ridges and de-stoning a single bed at a time," says Davison. "We would then run a power harrow through to pull soil into the wheelings, before planting an onion set. With the Tillerstar, we cultivated and formed three beds, took out large stones and left a nice bed finish all in one go."

Growing onions is a significant enterprise on the 240ha farm, the crop sharing a rotation with cereals, oilseed rape and sugar beet. It also requires significant investment, not only in specialist field machinery but also in storage facilities. Anything that reduces capital investment is welcome. With a list price of £77,000, the triple-bed Tillerstar is no more expensive than a high-capacity conventional stone separator that would work one bed at a time.

"I expect the machine to pay for itself over five years because of the cost savings," says Davison, who plans to capitalise on the seasonal capacity ofthe  by contracting it to other growers. On his own farm, he sets the machine to remove any material 28mm or larger, which if left in the bed would threaten to jam the planter and damage the crop as it was lifted by the harvester and handled over the grader.

He is impressed with the results, especially in the way it deposits the material separated from the bed, not in wheelings. "I kept digging into the beds, but never found any sizeable stones," he adds. "Previously, we've had to plough at an angle to the lines of stone to bring it back to a depth where my tined combo drill would distribute it. I won't have to plough in future because the Tillerstar leaves stones distributed evenly across the field; routine tine cultivations should then bring them back up through the soil profile."

Davison used the Tillerstar behind a tractor with 380hp on tap. Working speed was limited to just over 1kmph but twice that was possible in better conditions later on, giving an output of about 8ha in a 12-hour day. "It's a slow process, but you're doing a lot of work in one pass rather than in several operations," says Davison.

Not long ago, much of your time would have been spent repeatedly running tractors and implements up and down fields to prepare them for crops. With two or more tractors, you could cultivate in sequence — the first tractor with a plough or cultivator, the second perhaps with equipment to remove stones and then a third with a bed former.

Nowadays, a wide range of multitasking and single-pass cultivation equipment saves time, labour and fuel, which is good for the pocket and the environment.

One-pass solution

A recent introduction, the British-built Tillerstar, has sent ripples through the sector. Manufactured by George Moate, the machine combines in one operation the preparation of land for all crops grown in beds. The Tillerstar removes the need to use different implements to cultivate, remove stones and set up the beds.

"This one-pass approach not only saves a grower thousands of pounds in capital and running costs, but it also reduces his carbon footprint by making significant savings in fuel," says George Moate managing director Richard Pratt.

The implement can work in stubble without any preceding cultivation and uses a PTO-driven horizontal rotor to cultivate the soil, which is then thrown on to four star rollers that retain sizeable stones or soil clods, as loose soil falls through.

The stones and clods are moved forward by the rollers, dropped into the void behind the rotor and covered by the sieved soil as the machine proceeds. The result is a clean bed up to 35cm deep. Material is distributed evenly beneath the full width of the bed – other separation techniques tend to leave material concentrated in rows between beds that require redistribution after harvest.

There are single-, double- and triple-bed sizes available, with a choice of 1.82m and 2m widths. Output is about 10 acres a day.

"We've created several adjustable forming hoods that leave ideal beds for planting onion sets, potatoes, leeks, beetroots and similar crops, as well as carrots," says Pratt. "There are also applicator mounting kits for fertiliser and chemical treatments."

After a successful first season on British farms, this year the Tillerstar is available to growers in Ireland. George Moate also offers a range of conventional ridge tillers, bed tillers and haulm toppers for potatoes and other vegetable and salad crops.

All-in-one machine

A subsoiler and cultivator in one, the Gregoire Besson Helios double-frame subsoiler was launched last year and is capable of working down to 40cm for root crops but also as shallow as 20cm. The Helios is available from 3m mounted up to 7m trailed and consists of Michel subsoil legs at the front and a choice of rear implement/packer, including rear discs, crumbler or Emopak.

The latest in Gregoire Besson's cultivator range is the Helidisc. It uses hydraulically adjustable front and back discs that are independently controlled to provide a more level finish. This increases the choice of tines that can be mounted, as well as reducing the machine's length.

The Helidisc is available in two models. One is for use on light to medium land, and has a front row of in-line discs, three rows of spring-loaded Eurocult tines, another row of in-line discs and a double Emopak press. The tines can work 30cm below the discs and the front gangs run in opposite directions to the rear, providing a better mix and precise depth control. The 242mm spacing between the tines and range of points and wings allows all of the soil to be cultivated.

The second model is built for work on medium to heavy soil, with the spring-loaded tines being replaced with either Discordon tines, which go 30cm below the discs, or with Helios (Michel) or LD straight tines, both of which go 40cm below the discs. The tines are spaced at 484mm, but the disc spacing remains the same. A choice of double Emopak roller or a single larger roller is also available.

"In tests, we found that the flow of the land behind the tines becomes slightly raised, so we developed the independently adjustable depth on the front and rear discs to give maximum control in all conditions, providing a more level finish," says Gregoire Besson UK managing director Robin Immink.

At LAMMA, the farm machinery, equipment and services show held in Newark last month, Opico launched a new version of the 4.78m-wide Maschio Pantera rotary cultivator, modified specifically for vegetable growers. The model is fitted with wheels instead of a packer roller, giving more above-ground clearance for mulching bulky crop residues such as cabbages and cauliflowers.

With the wheels weighing less than a pack roller, the machine can be used on a smaller tractor, yet still has the width to maximise work rates. The Pantera's blades can work down to 29cm, the wheel settings being adjustable to allow better control of working depth when rotavating row and bed crops.

Hydraulic depth control allows the operator to adjust the rotavator's working height from the cab. The transportation width is 2.5m.

Other features include Duo-cone waterproof bearings. The unit weighs 2,900kg, is suited to 300hp tractors and costs £31,629 + VAT.

Other new products

Gregoire Besson UK has introduced the R6 mounted plough for tractors of 180hp to 280hp. Available with four or five furrows, it is designed for robustness and ploughing quality. An offset curved leg makes it easier to pull. A suspended headstock on the frame absorbs the shock load from the three-point linkage on headland manoeuvres.

It also provides even weight distribution for a smoother ride. The new model includes in-cab electronic controls to hydraulically adjust the depth and inclination. A transport lock and variable front furrow width allow the plough to be adapted for all conditions.

Knight Farm Machinery has redesigned its linkage-mounted Raven cultivator to improve its effectiveness as a deep-working subsoiler, while maintaining its capabilities as a multipurpose cultivator without the need for high-horsepower tractors. The new versions have a lower intermediate tool-beam than the originals, which allows adjustable tines to work at subsoiling depths. The cultivators can be fitted with three or five subsoil tines as the first row of implements, followed by intermediate tines, two rows of rubber-cushioned discs with hydraulic depth adjustment and a large-diameter packer roller to finish. Speed-Lock points are fitted as standard on the intermediate tines.

Opico has launched an HE-VA front press with V-profile rings that are 700mm in diameter, allowing better consolidation across a range of soil types and working conditions. It is available in widths of 3m and 4m. Opico managing director James Woolway says: "Standard V-profile rings are 600mm in diameter and suitable for all soil types. This larger ring gives less rolling resistance and is easier to pull in soft, light land and on heavy, cloddy soils. The 700mm version has a castellated rib to ensure it keeps driving both in wet and sticky and very light soils."

The Imants 48SX is a new concept in rotary spaders for sandy and light clay soils. Available from JC Machinery, it is the first rotary spader with harrow that has a gear-driven spade shaft. The gearbox has been developed by Imants to handle tractors from 130hp to 250hp. Suitable for farms from 100ha to 600ha, the 48SX has a capacity of 2ha an hour.


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