Variable width ploughing is more than a novelty – it can bring real benefits.
Peter Hill looks at current models
HYDRAULIC variable width ploughs are growing in popularity. That enthusiasm is driven by the benefits of fine-tuning the plough to the tractor for the best combination of output and fuel efficiency on any given day.
Most manufacturers now offer the facility, and not just on compact mounted reversibles. There is a good choice of semi-mounted implements with the quickly adjusted working width facility for bigger tractors.
In terms of overall ploughing width Rabes new twin-wheel Marabu 180 heads the field. The nine-furrow model is capable of ploughing at 53cm (21in) to turn 4.77m (15ft 8in) of ground with every pass. But it can also be closed to just 33cm (13in) – reducing overall width to 2.97m (9ft 9in) – when soil type, soil conditions or a steep gradient demand.
Lemkens biggest SMV160 is not far behind at 4.56m (16ft) from eight 57cm (22in) furrows and this plough can be kitted out for out-of-furrow use by a tracklayer.
Kvernelands end-wheel PB-100 semi-mount comes next in the overall ploughing width stakes at 4.5m (14ft 9in) with the side-wheel models from Eberhardt and Gregoire-Besson, plus Gregoires twin-wheel SPERW-7, following in its tracks at 4m (13ft 2in).
The Niemeyer Delta 5-220 completes the semi-mounted variable width plough options, delivering a 3.5m (11ft 6in) working width from seven 50cm (20in) furrows.
There is a wider choice still among the regular three- to five-furrow mounted machines. Their chief attraction is flexibility.
With hydraulic variable width, adjustments are made in seconds – on-the-move if required – with the pull of the lever. That means the load on the tractor can be kept more or less constant as it moves between soil types or as ground conditions change.
It can also mean keeping the equivalent of an extra furrow in place when the plough has to work up and down gradients. And it means there is more scope for setting up the sort of finish required for different crops and situations.
Cost is a penalty when comparing, say, four-furrow conventional and variable width ploughs but less so when comparing a four-furrow variable width with a five-furrow conventional.
Kuhns four-furrow Vari-Master 120T, for example, will plough up to 2.03m (80in), weighs 1230kg (2711lb) and costs £9380 in standard trim. Working width is, therefore, up to 25cm (10in) higher on a five-furrow Multi-Master with a 170kg (375lb) weight saving. It costs £735 more.
Lemkens four-furrow DLV141 Variowidth costs £950 more than a five-furrow DLV160 but weighs 189kg (417lb) less and ploughs up to 33cm (13in) more ground per pass.
On the other hand, opting for the four-furrow Vogel & Noot Euromat 3S "MS" 950 Vario rather than the standard five-furrow "MS" model trims 20cm (8in) off maximum working width but also 40kg (88lb) off the weight and £205 off the price.
Five-furrow variable width is the biggest most manufacturers get, though Kverneland offers a six-furrow version of its shear bolt protected LB-85/240 plough as does Lemken with the DLV141 and DLV160, albeit only with the shorter inter-body clearance.
The downside with any variable width plough is that it introduces added components and wearing parts to an otherwise simple implement.
It is as well to consider how items such as pivot pins are installed and whether one design is likely to last longer than another.
Reversible ploughs with hydraulic variable
Anglia Imports (01692 407233) – Vogel & Noot
Euromat 3S Vario
M 9503-4fM30-50 (12-20)60-120SB
MS 9503-4fM30-50 (12-20)80-150SB/AR
S 9504-5fM30-50 (12-20)120-240SB/AR
Bonhill (01430 423388) – Eberhardt Variotec
D-180VM 5-8fSM30-50 (12-20)<300SB/AR
Dowdeswell (01926 812335) – Dowdeswell HA Delta Furra
100 Series3-5fM31-46 (12-18)<140SB
Gregoire-Besson (01778 590223) – Gregoire-Besson RW series
SPERW-7 5-8fSM30-50 (12-20)<190SB/AR
Kuhn (01952 290991) – Kuhn Vari-Master
(*35-51cm (14-20in) with 1020mm point-to-point clearance)
Kverneland (01380 722361) – Kverneland Vari-Width
PB-1004-8fSM30-55 (12-22)8f from 1AR
Lemken Tri-Ag (01953 605151) – Lemken Variowidth
DLV 1604-6fM27-52** (11-20)<240SB/AR
(*22-54cm (9-21in) with 950mm point-to-point clearance)
(**27-57cm (11-22in) with 1000mm clearance)
Niemeyer (01302 751200) – Niemeyer Delta-Variant
Delta 3-2203-4fM25-45 (10-18)<120SB/AR
Delta 4-2204-5fM30-50 (12-20)<120SB/AR
Delta 4-2504-5fM30-50 (12-20)<180SB/AR
Delta 5-2205-7fSM35-50 (14-20)naSB/AR
Watveare (01789 415588) – Rabe Variant
Eagle 120C3-5fM28-45 (11-18)<120SB
Eagle 140KC3-5fM31-48 (12-19)<135SB
Eagle 140KC Avant3-4fM28-45 (11-18)<130AR
Marabu 1806-9fSM33-53 (13-21)<240SB/AR
Key: M-mounted; SM-semi-mounted; SB-shear bolt; AR-auto-reset
Variable width plough advantages have to be balanced against extra costs. Here this four-furrow version is closed up for action on hard ground, steep slopes or where surface conditions restrict wider working.
The same machine at full stretch covers more ground at each pass, for example when working downhill. Adjustable width also helps create the best finish for different crops and conditions. But flexibility adds to the wearing parts.