Growers turn designers
Growers are ever more willing to modify equipment to suit their particular needs. Peter Hill reports on Väderstads response.
MANY farmers, it seems, are design engineers at heart. They see a piece of equipment they like, compliment the manufacturer, then follow up with the inevitable: "Mind you, it would be better if…."
Despite (or perhaps because of) the impact on UK tillage and sowing practices of Väderstads Rapid F drill, which has seen this machine used across a range of crops and soil types, growers are demanding more of it. And not only suggesting ways in which it can be changed or improved but, in some cases, getting on and modifying it.
In Perthshire, for example, where sowing seed and fertiliser together remains common practice, the Carnegie contracting operation has converted a standard 6m Rapid F for combination drilling by fitting a duplicate hopper. That was preferred to dividing the existing one because it allows combined sowing without having to stop to fill up more often.
In Warwickshire, contract farming business Forsyth Farmwork has had two Rapid drills modified to position alternate pairs of disc coulters further forward than usual. This limits the amount of leading equipment that can be fitted but, by arranging the discs effectively in four rows rather than two, creates more clearance to cope with large quantities of disc-incorporated straw on heavy clay soils.
For its own part, the Swedish manufacturer has developed an alternative cultivator module for the drill, and a smaller, lighter tractor-mounted version better suited to farms with more modest acreages of crops to sow.
System Discs are recommended for use with the Crossboard trailing leaf tines, which are designed to level and crumble soils, as an alternative to the Agrilla S spring tines and Rigid chisel tine options.
Arranged in two rows, they look like the coulter discs, being the same 400mm diameter and with a serrated edge. But they are slightly concave and set at opposing angles to give a more aggressive action in the soil.
Their principal role is to work in seedbeds with lots of trash – sowing cereals or, more especially, break crops after stubbles have been busted by disc or tine cultivation. Conditions in which tines are largely unsuited, in other words.
But also to work on cultivated heavy soils when the precise depth control and ability to work very shallow to avoid bringing wet soil to the surface is an attraction.
Depth adjustment is by crank handles working parallel linkage and, like the coulters, the discs are allowed some movement over large stones and other obstacles by rubber bushes within the frame clamps.
Väderstads tractor-mounted Rapid 30 is said to offer smaller growers the opportunity to adopt a minimum tillage and drilling approach. It uses the same disc coulter design as the trailed F models, with pairs of coulter assemblies connected rigidly to rear press/depth wheels.
A novel interconnecting cable and pulley arrangement tensions the coulters to help maintain correct working depth over field surface undulations.
A single crank handle alters the coulter/press wheel arm geometry to set sowing depth, and the serrated discs themselves are angled in two planes to achieve decent penetration when necessary.
Like the F drill, the mounted model can be fitted with a choice of leading elements to prepare soil for the coulters. Standard arrangement is a row of spring tines to eradicate wheelings and break any weather crust, followed by the broad, trailing Crossboard tines designed to shatter clods and leave a level finish.