Machinery manufacturers are ploughing increasing amounts of money into strip-till kit. David Cousins checks out what Väderstad has to offer.
Swedish drill and cultivator maker Väderstad gave the first UK demonstration of its Spirit Strip-Till drill (pictured)at Holkham Hall in Norfolk last week.
Though the British weather did its best to scupper the demo by sending squally rain showers, it was a good chance to see a system that will be an important part of Väderstad’s drill offering in years to come.
Testing of the Spirit Strip-Till started in autumn 2011 and machines have been working in several European countries. The prototype machine at Holkham Hall is the first one to reach these shores and will be drilling both cereals and oilseed rape this autumn and next spring. The first sales of 4m machines will be in spring 2013, with 6m versions arriving in autumn 2013.
The principle is simple. The Spirit Strip-Till deep-loosens the soil, puts on fertiliser and drills at the same time, a system that Väderstad believes is rather more straightforward than some of the other systems under development.
It can be used as a direct drill, going straight into stubble, as a min-till unit or into ploughed land.
The tines are only 25mm wide to open as narrow a track as possible and not use any more diesel than necessary. They can work down to 30cm depth.
For many farmers a min-till system may bring the best benefits, says the company. That way, volunteers and weed seeds should have started to germinate before a deeper pass with a cultivator at a depth of 15-18cm.
Machine set-up depends on whether you’re drilling oilseed rape or wheat. In OSR, the seed is drilled at 334mm spacings in line with the slit left by the tines, with every second coulter shut off to achieve this.
If you’re drilling wheat, though, the tines are offset (done manually at the moment) by half a row width, so that they run between each pair of slits. That means the rows of seed (at 167mm spacings) lie to one side of the tines’ tracks, with the roots making their way down into the loosened soil even if fertiliser is not applied during drilling.
Väderstad says the system can give high yields in wet and dry years alike. Since it allows a well-developed root system to form quickly, the crop has better opportunities to grow in dry conditions, while in wet years, excess water can drain away into the slits left by the tines. These fissures are said to survive in the soil for a long time.
Väderstad also demonstrated the new Crosscutter (pictured above) add-on for its Carrier disc cultivators for the first time. First shown in prototype form at Agritechnica 2012, it is mainly designed to be used after oilseed rape and maize crops.
The idea is to improve stubble cultivation and get a good stale seed-bed after OSR by chopping and flattening the stubble. Six sharp knives in the rotating drum cut and crush crop residues at right angles to the direction of travel.
Hard-wearing discs strip and shred the trash lengthwise, while simultaneously burying it in the soil. The Crosscutter can also become a tool for very shallow cultivation by putting pressure on the Crosscutter blades while at the same time running the following discs at less-than-full working depth.
The six sharp knives in the drum are made of hardened steel and are reversible. The drum is mounted in hydraulically controlled rubber mountings in individual sections of 1-1.5m to give a smooth ride and adapt to field contours. It will be available in limited numbers in 2012 for 6.5m and 12.25m Carrier models.