19 September 1998

MIGHTY MUSCLES

Chopped straw and sticky conditions at the first of three Tillage 98 events set a challenge for plough, cultivator and drill demonstrators. Peter Hill reports.

BIG power tractors and big ploughs to go with them took centre stage as growers looked for savings in labour and machinery by opting for fewer, more muscular power units.

If ploughing remains part of the cultivations programme, the 250hp-plus tractor and big semi-mounted plough is one such route for larger units, especially if land can be reached without frequent road travel. The risk in focusing on one big outfit is that downtime is costlier in terms of lost production than if one of two or three ploughing outfits is lost to a breakdown.

But then manufacturers are well aware of that; improved reliability, computerised fault-finding, more efficient parts availability and dealers geared to giving prompt back-up help mitigate the effects of such an event.

The Tillage 98 demonstration also served to emphasise the need for particular skills in operating such big-scale tackle. Morning rain produced a slippery surface which challenged machine capability and operator competence to the full.

Operating a 250hp to 350hp tractor with a 10 or more furrow plough is not for the novice; and getting the most out of it, to fully capitalise on the combinations output and cost-saving potential, demands experience, a steady approach and a keen eye to keep things working as they should.

&#8226 The first of the three Tillage 98 cultivation demonstrations was held at Weybridge Farm, Alconbury, Cambs. The events are staged by the AEA for manufacturers, in association with ADAS and SAC.

The on-land version of Rabes big Marabu plough suits wide-wheeled or tracklayer tractors – like the new Claas (née Caterpillar) Challenger 75E. The plough comes in seven to 10-furrow sizes with shearbolt or auto-reset leg protection, manual or hydraulic variable width. The articulated beam, with separately controlled rear section, follows contours and keeps headlands to manageable proportions. At 340hp, the Challenger 75E is one of four level track models powered by Cat engines from 310hp to 410hp. Drive is through a 10-speed full powershift transmission. Euro specification includes more stylish looks, moulded plastic fuel tank and cab enhancements.

Dowdeswells latest semi-mounted plough – the Delta Furra 250-series – has a fold-in main beam for lower stress turnover, and a bend-in-the-middle layout that follows ground contours and allows more progressive work entry for narrower headlands. Available in six sizes from nine to 14 furrows, it can be set for in-furrow or on-land working behind 180hp to 300hp-plus wheeled or tracked tractors. Delta Furra adjustment provides six manually set furrow widths and there is a choice of bodies.

Deutz-Fahr is back in the high horsepower league with this 260hp Agrotron. Powered by a Deutz six-cylinder liquid cooled motor, the monster tractor features hydraulic front axle suspension and pneumatic cab suspension to further improve driver comfort in the familiar bulbous cab. A ZF transmission provides 24 speeds in all, selected via six manual gears and four joystick-selected powershift ratios. At Tillage 98, it powered Simba 23C progressive discs which feature larger, heavier and wider spaced discs at the rear than at the front.

Power drill: with tractor lift capacity often more of a limiting factor than engine power, Lemken has produced this semi-mounted combination featuring a folding Zircon power harrow and Solitair double-disc drill. For direct, mulch or on-the-plough one-pass cultivation and sowing. There are four sizes from 4m to 6m.

Power drill: with tractor lift capacity often more of a limiting factor than engine power, Lemken has produced this semi-mounted combination featuring a folding Zircon power harrow and Solitair double-disc drill. For direct, mulch or on-the-plough one-pass cultivation and sowing. There are four sizes from 4m to 6m.

Power drill: with tractor lift capacity often more of a limiting factor than engine power, Lemken has produced this semi-mounted combination featuring a folding Zircon power harrow and Solitair double-disc drill. For direct, mulch or on-the-plough one-pass cultivation and sowing. There are four sizes from 4m to 6m.