19 November 1999

Safety first for large-scale kit

SALES of new farm machinery generally may not be particularly buoyant at the moment, but there are some bright spots.

One is the relatively steady trade in large-scale equipment, due no doubt to the fact that for every farmer who decides to quit, theres always a neighbour who takes over his land and needs bigger machinery to do it.

German company Rabe, for instance, reckons it will have a number of UK customers for its 8m (26ft) folding power harrow. This giant of a machine weighs 5t and requires 300hp of tractor power but does at least fold down to less than 3m (10ft) for road transport.

Like some other power harrow makers, Rabe reckons that the increasingly mighty amounts of torque that modern tractors send down the pto shaft are beginning to overload traditional slip clutches. That means they are less able to protect the machine if it should hit something hard and unyielding.

Rabes solution on the 8m model is to divide the drive, sending half the power to each of two gearboxes. Each Walterscheid pto shaft contains a built-in dog clutch that cuts the drive completely if something immovable is hit. Once the driver eases back on the forward speed or raises the implement, the drive automatically re-engages.

Another large piece of kit that Rabe hopes to sell several of in the UK this autumn is its Cormorant semi-mounted plough. Available with up to eight furrows, it has a low-profile headstock and twin rams for turnover.

But it is the joystick control that is likely to be the chief talking point. This consists of the familiar wand which can be moved fore and aft as well as side to side, but overlays it with four buttons to allow extra functions to be controlled. Press arm release, hydraulic trip reset, wheel lift and lower, plough turnover and front furrow width and vari-width adjustment (among other things) can all be catered for. Despite its versatility, the plough still only requires three spool valves on the tractor. &#42