2 April 1999

Unique unit for tackling spring barley drilling

The knock-on effect of last autumns persistent rain has

meant our Scottish contractor David Carnegie has spent

the winter gearing up to cope with a more intense

spring barley drilling campaign. Ian Marshall reports

SPRING barley drilling is always a busy time in David Carnegies calendar – and this seasons campaign is even more intense.

"Last autumns rain reduced our winter barley and wheat by at least 50% and 30% and oilseed rape drilling acreage by about 25-30%. The shortfall is being made up by an increase in spring barley drilling, which is up by about 25%," he says.

Anticipating what was in store, a good part of the winter has been spent in Steelstraths workshop converting the businesss 6m (20ft) Vaderstad Rapid pneumatic drill into a combined grain and fertiliser unit.

Existing grain tank

Carried out by farm staff using Vaderstad components, the work involved reversing a standard 2500-litre seed hopper and mounting it on the drawbar in front of the existing grain tank and above the drills cultivator units, whose tines have been fitted with boots to take the fertiliser tubes.

As on the standard drill, the grain fan, which now sits between the two hoppers, is hydraulically driven from the tractor.

A dedicated fan for the fertiliser distribution sits on the drawbar below its hopper and is hydraulically driven from its own oil reservoir via a pto-driven pump, with metering by an additional ground driven metering wheel.

Clear view

"Reversing the hopper so its rear sloping side faced forward gave us the space to fit the fan and pump unit, and gives the operator a clear view of the tines," says Mr Carnegie, who puts the cost of the conversion at £10,000, including parts and labour.

The modified Vaderstad works behind Mr Carnegies 212hp Challenger 35 and its role is to take the pressure off the firms four power harrow-mounted pneumatic combination drills.

"It is yet to be fully proven, but we confidently expect an output of 70 acres a day from the combination, which is charged out at £1/acre less than the other drills as it does not have the operating cost of a power harrow," says Mr Carnegie.

The winter has also seen the rest of the machinery come in for its annual review. As a result two new tractors, a 132hp NH 8630 and a 100hp NH TS110 have joined the fleet, as respective replacements for a 90hp NH 6810 and an 82hp two-wheel-drive 6610.

On the grassland equipment front, an eight-year-old NH D1000 medium density square baler has given way to a D1010 Crop Cutter model to be used for silage and straw, while an NH 865 round baler has been replaced with a 648 model, capable of applying twine, netwrap or – and critically Mr Carnegie believes – film.

Many of his customers do not have the space to store all the straw bales they need, so it is important to give field stored bales a degree of weather protection, if users are not to be caught out as they were last season.

"Not only was a considerable amount of field stored feeding and bedding material lost due to spoilage by the late autumn rainfall, the price of straw doubled to £8/bale as a result of the consequent shortage," he points out.

This spring has also seen Mr Carnegie beginning to evaluate the benefits of precision farming systems.

Justify cost

He believes contractors, with their large customer base, should be in a better position to justify the cost of the equipment and that the technique will become an important weapon in the contractors armoury in the future.

"Although current systems are not ideal, they will improve over time and precision farming is the future for areas such as ours, where fertile soils support a wide range of high value crops," he insists.

"We had an RDS Hermes yield mapping system on a combine last harvest from which we intend to create soil sampling profiles.

"These will be used as a basis for variable rate application maps for the Unimog and Big A lime spreaders, as it is critical to get the correct pH for both potatoes and cereals." &#42

CARNEGIEDATA

&#8226 Base: Steelstrath, Laurencekirk, Grampian (01674-840288).

&#8226 Work undertaken: All arable and livestock operations.

&#8226 Machinery fleet includes: 30 wheeled tractors (80-160hp), 212hp Claas Challenger 35; primary and secondary cultivation equipment, five 3m/4m power harrow/pneumatic drill combinations and 6m Vaderstad Rapid; seven combines, 10 rape swathers, range of conventional and self-propelled sprayers. One high density, three medium density large balers, round baler, bale wrappers; New Holland S1900 self-propelled forager, Vicon HPC mower conditioner; range of slurry tankers and muck spreaders, two Big A lime spreaders.

&#8226 Labour: 35 full-time.