Conscious of soil health and reducing soil compaction, farmer and contractor WJ & J Green has invested in a KUHN Espro 6000 RC drill to sow winter and spring crops in a move towards a min-till approach.
Responsible for 5,600 acres, with 1,950 farmed in partnership and 3,560 contracted to neighbouring landowners, Iain Green explains that the Espro has provided a new approach to the land the business farms near Fochabers in Scotland.
“We have varied soils including heavy clays to sand. The variation provides a unique challenge and we are working on improving our soil health by introducing cover crops such as mustard to improve fertility and reduce erosion,” he says.
Almost 3,000 acres is planted with cereal crops including winter wheat, winter and spring barley, with the remainder used as grassland to feed and graze a herd of 605 Simmental and Simmental Cross sucklers, and graze a flock of 820 ewes.
Whilst the mixed farming system offers advantages to the farm, soil health is an ongoing concern and Mr Green has taken every measure to choose tractors and machinery that can help to reduce compaction on the land.
“We run dual wheels on a John Deere 6250 with the Espro. Both are relatively light machines and the tractor has a good power to weight ratio. It pulls the Espro well at 12.5km/h and our operator Robert Beattie has found it easy to work with in a wide variety of soils.”
Originally launched in 2015, the Espro range has become a firm favourite with medium to large-scale arable farmers and contractors thanks to the low power requirement and high output capacity of the various models. The Crossflex coulter bar is the key to the Espro range’s high working speeds. Each coulter is mounted on polyurethane blocks which allow the individual coulters to closely follow terrain contours. This ensures a consistent seeding depth across the machine’s full working width and enables accurate seeding to be carried out at high forward speeds.
Mr Green accepts that the farm is still ploughing much of its land, using a power harrow drill combination as well as the Espro to drill. However, the Espro offers fuel and time saving advantages in addition to its light weight benefits.
“It is light but makes an excellent seedbed. It is also very quick to set up. Robert can be fully loaded with three bags of seed and four of fertiliser in just 15 minutes which helps us to take advantage of the sometimes short weather windows. This sees him able to cover 6.5 hectares with both fertiliser and seed.”
The Espro is fitted with a 5,500 litre, twin-compartment hopper split 60% fertiliser and 40% seed. Two separate metering and distribution systems provide several potential modes of operation including the ability to sow: one seed variety from both compartments; seed and fertiliser from the separate compartments; two main crop varieties; or a mixture of two seed varieties with each sown to a different depth.
“The Espro can hold up to 25% more seed and fertiliser than our power harrow combination drill and this has helped us to reduce fuel costs at a time when red diesel has reached record highs. It has also provided Robert with the opportunity to cover more land faster by cutting down on filling time. This is not to the detriment of seed placement, and the establishment of the winter crops we drilled in 2022 has been excellent.”
The Espro features an additional row of single disc coulters behind the working discs to deliver fertiliser or a second seed variety directly in front of the press wheels and equidistant from each of the two main rows of seed. Placing fertiliser to this level of precision ensures the seed receives the necessary nutrients during the early stages of growth whilst also minimising the risk of the young plants being scorched by coming in to direct contact with the fertiliser.
“As we move towards planting more cover crops to improve soil nutrients and structure, the Espro will become ever more valuable. Our aim is to use crops like mustard that we can subsequently direct drill through to save time and reduce compaction.”
The Espro has large diameter, narrow, offset press wheels which help to allow trash flow through the machine by preventing a build-up in front of the wheels. The large diameter 350mm, bevelled-edged seeding discs can cut through residues and ensure a consistent seeding depth. The offset discs help to cut through residue and prevent hair pinning. Hydraulically adjustable working discs also help in trashy conditions.
“When changing soil conditions, Robert changes the clamps for the ram depth to get the seedbed perfect the whole way across the drill. Once it Is set to the soil conditions it is very consistent and I have been impressed with the results.”
Ongoing maintenance has also been a pleasant break from the norm. Greasing rams is all the Espro has needed so far and Kuhn has been able to help with both set up and maintenance enquiries.
“We are lucky to have such a good local dealer in Ravenhill, and Kuhn’s Marcus Ainley has been on hand to get us set up properly and help with technical queries. Now it is working well, and Robert has got the measure of it, I see it as a crucial piece of machinery for our system and one that is going to help us improve our soils and work more efficiently,” he concludes.