8 September 2001

DIY drill works wond ers

Growers equipped with a welding torch, a good set of spanners and a fair dose of ingenuity, will often come up with implements to suit their individual needs. Peter Hill reports on two home-made seed drill projects

DESPITE the best efforts of established equipment manufacturers, there is always scope for farmers to build their own individual implement. It may meet a particular need or save costs by making use of existing equipment on the farm. Or it may simply satisfy the frustrated engineer in many growers.

Andy Thaxtons motivation for screwing together his drill was simply that he had long reckoned the harrow he used for sugar beet seedbeds would do a good job of sowing winter wheat and winter barley into his light Norfolk sands.

"Ive had the Kongskilde Germinator for at least 15 years and its renowned in this part of the country as a beet seedbed harrow," says Mr Thaxton. "I kept saying it would make the basis of a good drill. But since no-one took up the idea, I thought Id have a go myself."

The key to the Germinators popularity as a beet harrow lies in the twin crumbler rollers fitted at both ends of the implement. These not only consolidate the soil effectively but provide steady and accurate depth control for the five rows of spring tines that lie between them.

Thanks to the modest yields produced on Manor Farms 109ha of mostly very thin soils, keeping establishment costs to a minimum is paramount. So the three-furrow Kverneland plough pulls a Lemken furrow press which, in turn, trails a Flexi-Coil packer with added ballast to really firm the resulting tilth.

In most fields, this is enough for the drill to go straight in; heavier ground usually needs another pass with a tine or power harrow.

Turning the Germinator into a drill involved mounting a Vicon seed hopper, complete with Accord metering and distribution system, and running feed pipes to the tines. The tines themselves were modified by adding seed tubes and welding small plates on either side to hold the soil open long enough for the seed to drop into place.

Even spread

"I converted a 1m section of the harrow and tried that first," notes Mr Thaxton. "It worked well, so I then went ahead and converted the rest of the 4m implement."

All this years winter wheat and winter barley crops – mostly grown for seed – were sown at Manor Farm, Gayton Thorpe near Kings Lynn using the home-made drill.

"The drill worked beautifully and the crops came up well," says Mr Thaxton. "Using four of the Germinators five rows of tines gives us 63mm row spacing. This produces a stand that looks very thick looked at from the side, but looking down on the crop shows it is very evenly spread out."

Mr Thaxton notes that the plants seemed to stay flatter for longer as they tillered, assuming that the more even distribution, compared with sowing more densely within each row, reduces the competition that tends to draw them up.

Also, judging by the way trial plots sown with the Thaxton drill and a neighbours conventional unit emerged, the less clearly defined rows also appeared to make it more difficult for crows to work their way along the lines of seed.