Showers make for better
Last weeks Cultivations 95 event saw a positive plethora of implements and tractors turn stubble to seed-bed. Andy Collings and Peter Hill report
"BETTER than it would have been two weeks ago," was the general comment from manufacturers demonstrating their wares at Cultivations 95.
A series of heavy showers made previously impenetrable soils manageable with several displays of reasonable ploughing and surface cultivations being performed.
But only just. Soil type at Bedfordia Farms Knotting Green site varied from a friable loam to a heavier clay – the latter still needing extra moisture to ease the amount of power and effort required to create a workable seed-bed.
Heading the big tackle was the Caterpillar Challenger 75C, which made light work of pulling a 11-furrow Dowdeswell plough. Not far behind was the 10-furrow Gregoire Besson SP HR articulated plough, pulled effectively by a John Deere 8400.
Impressive but not perhaps required for all farms. Several manufacturers demonstrated the more common four and five furrow ploughs, most equipped with a vertical blade attached to the point, which is claimed, to allow the plough to run without disc coulters and extend mouldboard life.
In terms of new equipment, the German-built Claydon Furrow Cracker attracted significant attention from visitors. A "herringbone" rake, which can be attached to most makes of reversible ploughs, is designed to split clods as the soil is inverted – before they have a chance to set.
Cultivations 95 also saw the UK debut for the Franquet Synchrospire cultivator, which is brought into the UK from France by Anglia Imports. Levelling boards are followed by a row of tines and then three interlinked spiral presses, the axles connected to each other by a chain drive to ensure the spirals are synchronised. A modular build offering several working widths, a rear pto and linkage arm allows a drill or secondary cultivator to be attached.
For the visitor the event was one of mixed feelings, to plough or to surface cultivate, to bury trash and lose surface moisture or to mix crop residues in the top few inches and retain the weathered tilth.
It was a question many found hard to resolve. Certainly the surface cultivation equipment appeared to be achieving a seed-bed but just what problems lay ahead in terms of volunteers and germinating weed seeds remained to be seen.
If anything, this years event brought home the message that the creation of autumn seed-beds cannot be a strict, blinkered "always plough or always surface cultivate" regime. Soil conditions change and methods should take into account these changes.