Kit for cultivation

The wide variety of new models released by field machinery manufacturers has afforded growers more options than ever, Sally Drury reports.

EL range: tractor-mounted power tillers feature reliability, long service life and minimal maintenance as key priorities - image: Kuhn Farm Machinery
EL range: tractor-mounted power tillers feature reliability, long service life and minimal maintenance as key priorities - image: Kuhn Farm Machinery

The past year has been a busy one for field machinery manufacturers. Across the range of cultivation equipment, from ploughs to drills and even weeding machines, there have been new models coming to market, extending the choice for growers. Whatever your crop and whatever type of soil you grow in, you should be able to find the right kit for the job.

A new player in the marketplace, Alpego UK officially launched its full product portfolio at LAMMA earlier this year, the machinery show held in Peterborough in January. The company’s line-up of equipment includes power harrows, rotovators, tined cultivators, subsoilers and drills as well as flail toppers and mowers.

Following the introduction of the 150B (shear bolt) and 150S (leaf spring auto reset) lightweight reversible ploughs, Kverneland has now extended its latest plough range to include hydraulic vari-width on both types, improving productivity and fuel consumption.

Called the 150 Variomat, the new version brings hydraulic furrow width adjustment from 30cm to 50cm for those who frequently adjust furrow widths to get the best output from available tractor horsepower and soil conditions.

"A simple shift from 12in to 18in furrow widths will yield a 30 per cent increase in working width," explains Kverneland plough specialist Adam Burt. "Fuel consumption is not proportional, which brings greater efficiency to ploughing — and a wider furrow width generates more clearance too."

The 150 Variomat plough comes in three-, four- and five-furrow versions, with a 150x150mm induction heat-treated main frame used on all models. Despite having a bigger frame than the non-Variomat models, the plough does not need vast amounts of horsepower to be handled or lifted. It is suitable for tractors up to a maximum of 150hp.

Series updated

Kuhn Farm Machinery has updated its Multi-Master 123 Series reversible plough range.

Available in 3, 4, 5 and 6 body formats, the plough retains the robust one-piece headstock and large-diameter turnover shaft of earlier models but adaptability is enhanced by user-friendly offsetting and angling facilities. Skimmers are fitted in a sheath to allow accurate adjustment in three dimensions — height, lengthways and sideways.

Furrow widths are adjustable mechanically to 35cm, 40cm or 45cm with a three-pin system. Substantial clearance is provided by underbeam and interbody distances of 75cm and 90cm respectively and all of the pivot points are bushed to give greater durability. The side-mounted triangular reinforcement adds further strength to the main beam where it is most needed.

The EL range of tractor-mounted power tillers from Kuhn Farm Machinery is available in 1.2m and 1.5m working widths for tractors form 25hp. But for larger businesses, model EL 282-450 offers a 4.5m width for tractors up to 270hp. All EL models are designed with reliability, long service life and minimal maintenance as key priorities. Stability in work and adaptability is increased by a continuous manual offset facility.

An adjustable rear hood constructed of thick metal plate ensures durability as well as flexibility in the degree of soil preparation and crumbling achieved. Versatility comes through the availability of different rotor and blade permutations as well as a choice of crumbler and packer rollers. Overall working depth ranges from 5cm to 18cm.

The Cultirotor on the EL tillers is designed for difficult conditions, working with either "C" blades for good soil penetration and maximum plant residue incorporation or "L" blades that are more suitable for working at shallower depths. The Cultitiller rotor is a versatile option for secondary tillage, direct work or stubble clearing. The Cultiplow rotor, fitted with straight angled tines, is recommended for fine-tilth soil preparation, mainly for working in dry soils. A fast-fit system is available for quick blade changes as well as a simple rotor-removal facility.

Another introduction from the Kuhn stable is the Discolander XM disc harrow range. Available in six sizes from 3.7m to 6m, these units are suitable for the incorporation of plant residues or manure and the creation of sterile seedbeds.

Line-up expanded

Already well established in central and eastern Europe, Czech-built Bednar cultivators are now available in the UK. Shown for the first time at the Power in Action and Tillage Live events last autumn, the introduction of the Bednar range represented a major expansion in the cultivation machinery line-up offered by Rutland-based Knight Farm Machinery, the sole UK importer.

Bednar Farm Machinery, trading at the time as Strom Export, started manufacturing disc harrows in 2000. Over the past 14 years, the range has expanded and now includes a wide variety of cultivators as well as seed drills and rotary mowers.

Knight currently manufactures several types of multipurpose cultivators with interchangeable soil-working elements at its Oakham factory. The Bed­nar models have been chosen to complement these machines and create a product range that covers all the soil types and cultivation regimes in the UK.

Talking about the marketing agreement with Bednar, Knight managing director Brian Knight says: "Bednar is a familiy-owned firm with a similar background and business philosophy to ours. They produce good-quality equipment designed to maximise productivity and profitability for their customers. It also fits neatly with our own product range and enables us to offer UK farmers a comprehensive choice of models."

Included in the new-machinery portfolio is the Bednar Fenix FO, a versatile cultivator with four rows of auto-reset tines that can be adjusted to work from 50mm to 350mm deep. The tines feature quick-change SpeedLoc points. Behind the tines is a row of levelling discs and a rear packer roller that can be raised out of work in unfavourable conditions. This model is available in working widths from 4m to 7m.

Also from Bednar is the Swifterdisc range. This includes models that considerably increase the working widths available from Knight and are capable of working at speeds up to 15kmph to allow very high daily acreages to be achieved. These machines have two rows of 520mm aggressively serrated discs with hydraulic depth control and can work at high speeds to maximise work rates. Working widths are available from 4.5m to 14m and there is a choice of packer rollers at the rear.

Lastly from Bednar, the Swifter Concept models have been developed for final seedbed preparation after ploughing and in minimum tillage systems. A mounting frame on these machines allows different soil-working elements to be used to suit soil conditions and produce the fine seedbeds required for vegetable crops. A typical layout includes four rows of tines, rear levelling bar, double crosskill roller and a finishing roller.

Seedbed precision

Establishing a uniform seedbed ensures a fast and even germination of the crop. Subsequent nutrition and crop protection can be better timed and the highest effect can be achieved from the lowest inputs. Recognising that yields in high-value crops such as onions are closely correlated to the preparation of the seedbed, Kongskilde has introduced a new series of precision seedbed cultivators to offer a solution to creating a high-quality seedbed in ploughed conditions.

The Kongskilde Germinator Pro is available with working widths from 5.4m to 7.9m, features a transport width of 3m and has five working sections. First a hydraulically operated flexboard levels out the soil and takes away the unevenness of the topsoil ahead of the first depth roller.

Next the heavy-duty crumbler roller controls the depth of the working section. Then five rows of the new straight Vibro Super G tines, set at 6cm spacings, provide 100 per cent cultivation and mixing of the soil profile. The rear levelling board provides a light levelling and the double roller combination at the rear provides crumbling and reconsolidation. Optimum working speed is 10-12kmph.

As a crop grows, so attention must be paid to weed control. Capable of operating at speeds of up 3.5kmph and offering the potential for huge labour savings, the Steketee IC is a new fully automatic weeder available to UK and Irish growers from importer Standen Reflex.

Developed in conjunction with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the Steketee IC uses four detecting cameras to "see" the crop. The cameras are set inside a hood to prevent sunlight or shade affecting performance and incorporated LEDs enhance cultivation precision and allow night-time operation.

From the camera images, the computer is able to decipher the height, width and colour shade of the crop, and control the time delay of blade entry and exit between plants for accurate hoeing. The weeding process is carried out by reciprocating blades that open and close six times a second, using a power take-off-driven screw compressor.

Currently, software programmes are available for detecting green or red plants, but additional updates will be offered for more crops as development continues. The control console is Wi-Fi equipped so the machine can be remotely controlled via a tablet computer. Adjustments available on the console include compensation for height and width of plants, colour shade and the blade entry and exit time delay between plants.

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