Horsch designs arable kit to cut costs
If Michael Horsch fails in his
business, it wont be due to
a lack of enthusiasm. Andy
Collings spent an
entertaining two days
listening to the German
implement makers views on
OBSESSIONS – some people like fast cars, for others it may be boats, but for Michael Horsch of Horsch Maschinen it is crop establishment.
Based at Schwandorf, near Nuremberg, Germany, his company specialises in producing a range of cultivation, seeding and self-propelled machinery.
Deeply convinced that arable farmers, looking to secure their future, need to cut their unit costs – the cost of producing a tonne of grain – Mr Horsch has put many hours into designing equipment, which he believes will help achieve this goal.
"The aim of every farmer should be to cut production costs and increase, or at least sustain, yield levels," he says.
Its a tall order perhaps, but its one which Mr Horsch is convinced can be achieved. He believes it is all a matter of management and attention to detail.
Choosing crops which will break disease cycles, using plant residues to increase moisture-retaining humus content, and taking a long hard look at the cultivation systems employed, number among the solutions he offers.
And, controversially, he reckons the removal of subsidies would result in better farming. "If farmers did not receive such handouts they would be forced to fine-tune their businesses and make a much better job of it," he maintains.
While not totally ignoring the merits of ploughing, Mr Horsch believes the future will see a vast increase in minimal cultivation techniques. And it will be no surprise to know the main thrust of his machinery development has been in this direction.
"Successful plant establishment in the autumn begins with the combine," he says. "Stubble should be cut low, straw chopped and, along with the chaff, spread well. Next stage is to immediately cultivate the top 5-10cm to mix the crop residues into the soil and encourage germination of volunteer and weed seeds."
The Horsch stubble cultivator range – the FG range – provides working widths from 4.5m to 12m, all of which have four tiers of tines to create a trash avoiding stagger of 1.2m. Pretty standard so far but it is the business end, the points, which could conceivably attract the attention of the purist.
Offering a much shallower working angle than most other traditional systems Mr Horsch maintains his system results in a better mixing action with reduced power requirements. Knock-off, knock-on interchangeable points allows the operator to quickly fit a range of different sized points to suit prevailing conditions.
"Disc harrows are not in the equation," he says. "They rarely cut straw and usually just press it into the ground."
Horsch has a number of pneumatic drills on its books with working widths to cater for both small and large acreages – the rotavator/seeder SE, the DS/D double disc drill and the CO cultivator drill.
One of the latest developments has been to introduce a seed/liquid fertiliser version of the CO drill designed to place a band of fertiliser 3cm below the seed. Key to the "Precision Placement of Fertiliser" (PPF) system lies in the coulter, which has a knife-type opener, the bottom of which is the receiving end of the fertiliser feed.
Running at a 3cm shallower depth just behind the opener is the seed delivery point with seed being sown in two narrow drills into soil that has been firmed up over the fertiliser band by a horizontal plate. To prevent soil sticking Teflon is used in the coulter.
"As the seed germinates the radicle grows down into the fertiliser band and benefits as a result," says Mr Horsch. "The important point is that fertiliser is available from day one and, in adverse conditions – disease, bad weather or slugs, for example – the plant has a greater chance of flourishing. *
Michael Horach: cutting unit costs starts with crop establishment.
Above: Key to Horschs PPF system is the coulters knife-type opener, the bottom of which is the receiving end of the fertiliser feed.
Right: The seed/liquid fertiliser version of Horschs CO drill.