Versatile plough buries straw and other trash
For a long life, specialist kit must be able to adapt to changing demands.
Andrew Faulkner visits a farm where a big clearance plough has done just that
BUY a machine for a specific task, only to find it is equally suited to a host of others.
Such capital budget bonuses are all too rare when investing in specialist, high cost equipment. But it certainly applies to the five-furrow, stripped straw plough bought by East Yorkshire cereal growers Bill and Tim Wreathall.
In 1993, the Wreathall brothers who farm at Heigholme Farm, Leven, near Beverley, had a specific problem – how to bury stripped straw behind a Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header?
The only solution, as they saw it, was to buy a high clearance reversible plough fitted with specialist trash burial equipment. The outfit also turns in sewage, pig manure, unchopped bean haulm, dense chopped straw – and set-aside trash.
"Although this years set-aside is all into industrial crops, the plough has been used on naturally regenerated set-aside in the past," says Bill Wreathall. "Its ideally suited to the set-aside job, particularly for anyone who buries large amounts of trash."
Initially developed in conjunction with Silsoe Research Institute, the Dowdeswell Delta-Furra high clearance plough is based on a standard five-furrow reversible but is significantly longer and heavier, and comes with unusual looking wrap-round skims and PVC flaps.
The ploughs extra weight and length result from massive point-to-point and underbeam clearances, 1.12m (44in) and 76cm (30in) respectively. These are the key to its working principle. Trash still builds up, but it then tends to fall through the wider gap as opposed to balling and blocking.
Most obvious visual differences between the big clearance plough and the standard are the floppy PVC flaps and wrap-round skims; these work together to bury the large amounts of trash the outfit is expected to work through. Wrapping the skim body around its leg reduces trash build-up, while the flaps direct the skimmed material down into the furrow bottom.
Like all ploughs, the Wreathalls have had to tinker with settings to get the best out of it – whether on stripped straw, muck or set-aside.
"To reduce the risk of blocking we set the skims deep, taking off about the top 2in. Shallow skims can ride out of the ground, and thats when blockages start," Bill Wreathall explains.
"Weve also found altering skim angle helps. On the heavier ground we keep the skim flat so it peels the soil over, while on the lighter ground we open up the blade for a more flowing affect."
At Heigholme Farm, the plough works in tandem with a 140hp John Deere 4055, turning over an annual 200ha (500 acres). In the past, almost all that work was through stripped straw left by the stripper header. But today the farms Shelbourne Reynolds header only cuts linseed.
So with stripped straw all but gone from the farm, surely the Dowdeswell heavyweight is no more than a costly sledgehammer for cracking the proverbial nut?
"Not really," says Mr Wreathall. "Having seen what the unit will bury, we would probably still spend the extra £1000 on the wide clearance beam and trash kit even if we didnt have the stripper header."
It will keep going in conditions which would have ground our previous plough to a halt."
Hefty plough weighs 2.05t
Weight – the fully mounted plough weighs a hefty 2.05t – is the main concern. "We had to have the tractors hydraulic output uprated when we bought the plough and, as a precaution, weve also beefed up its lower link arms."
Ironically the only working problem with the plough has come from one of its strengths – the big underbeam clearance. The 65cm (26in) stretch has proved too much for some of the skim legs which have tended to bend in dry conditions. Dowdeswell has beefed these up on newer models.
Dowdeswell Delta-Furra 120-series
• Number of furrows: 5.
• Mouldboard type: SCN bodies.
• Point-to-point clearance: 1.12m (44in).
• Underbeam clearance: 76cm (30in).
• Trash burial kit: Wrap-round skims and PVC deflectors.
• Weight: 2.05t.
• Price (new): £13,791.
Bill Wreathall: "The flap keeps trash material in the furrow bottom."