Easy Drill in rape stubble

Direct drilling and min-till specialist Sky Agriculture is fast becoming a big name in Europe, but as yet its machines have failed to make UK shores.

But thanks to a new deal with Lincolnshire importer Opico, buyers will be able to get their mitts on one from January 2016.

See also: Launch of Sky drills

Sky Agriculture is a sister company to French machinery maker Sulky and has been building a range of min-till and direct drills since 2013.

All machines are built in Sulky factories and share a lot of component parts, but it has separate design and marketing teams.

Opico will only be importing Sky drills and initially there will be two drills for buyers to choose from – the Easy Drill and the Maxi Drill.

Easy Drill

The Easy Drill is the machine that will be of most interest of those looking to go down the low-disturbance route.

It is designed primarily as a direct drill – however it will work on cultivated ground – and uses disc openers mounted at a very shallow angle to prevent soil being moved between the rows.

Coulter pressure can also be cranked up to as much as 250kg to make sure it bites into hard-packed clays and cuts through thick vegetation when drilling into cover crops.

The top-spec drill comes with a split seed-and-fert hopper, has a third mini-hopper for small seeds and has the option of numerous different seeding configurations.

For standard cereal drilling, seed would be placed using a skim-coulter mounted on the opening disc.

But there is also a second chute behind the disc that can be used to apply fertiliser, slug pellets or sow small seeds.

For oilseed rape seeding this can be reversed so that the front coulter places fertiliser below seed depth, leaving the rear chute to plant the seed.

Finally a large, slightly angled press wheel closes up the slot to give some seed-soil contact.

The whole seeding assembly runs on a full-width tyre press at the front and the press wheel at the rear.

Depending on conditions, weight can be transferred hydraulically between the front and rear of the machine.

The entry-level Easy Drill is a 3m trailed machine with a gravity-fed seed box that apparently only needs 80hp on the front.

Prices start at £42,233.

At the top of the range there’s a 6m hydraulic folding version with air seeding and either a seed only or split seed-and-fert hopper.

This needs a tractor with about 160hp under the bonnet and prices start at £89,164.

A fully-specced 6m machine with seed and fertiliser hoppers and the third small seeds hopper costs £103,613.

Maxi Drill

Maxi Drill

The second drill Opico will be importing to the UK disc-based cultivator drill called the Maxi Drill. This has two sets of straight discs to generate a tilth followed by an offset tyre packer to consolidate the ground.

Seed is then placed using a similar disc-and-skim coulter arrangement to the Easy Drill.

One of Sky’s main aims with the Maxi Drill was to make sure it worked late into the season.

That means all elements have been spaced out to avoid it clogging with sticky soil and it has a separate set of transport wheels, rather than relying on running down the road on the tyre packer.

As well as allowing the tyre packer to run at lower pressure it means the drill can be lifted out if it gets stuck in a boggy hole

Prices start at £44,192 for a simple-spec 3m drill. The 6m, hydraulic folding version with seed only hopper, bout and pre-emergence markers and hydraulic brakes costs £77,058.