For North Yorkshire arable farmer Matt Harrison, a combined disc and tine deep cultivator has brought new levels of efficiency to his farming system.
A KUHN Performer 4000 has given him time, fuel, and labour savings since he purchased it in the spring of 2021. It is the primary cultivator for the 1500-acre farm in Wistow, near Selby, and has helped him to improve soil health by reducing the use of his plough to just 100 acres.
Mr Harrison, moved away from a plough-based system in 2009 choosing a minimum tillage approach to improve drainage and soil health. The change has had the desired effect and the soil has been loosened, and he has significantly reduced the areas of the farm prone to holding water.
He is part of the team at the Darrington branch of Ripon Farm Services and so carries out much of his cultivation work in the evenings and weekends. “I have been so grateful for the time savings the Performer has brought to the cultivation work on the farm. It is very easy to set up and requires far less maintenance than previous cultivators I have used. I don’t have to grease the legs and discs to prepare the machine which means I can take advantage of every opportunity I get,” he explains.
This time and labour saving is due to the Performer having easy to change depth settings and fewer greasing points.
“It also has a control box in the cab that makes life so much easier. Using just one spool I can control the whole machine and quickly make alterations for the changing land we have on the farm.”
The machine is also helping to reduce the amount of fuel needed to prepare the land. When using a plough-based system his tractor could use 600 litres of fuel in a 10-hour day and only cover 30 acres. Whereas, with the Performer the same tractor can cover 60 acres. “We use a 2009 CAT Challenger. It is not the newest machine, but it is perfectly suited to the Performer and the cultivation work we do here. The fuel savings with a min-till system make a big difference. Especially with the recent rise in fuel costs.”
The land ranges from sandy soils to blue clay and in the heaviest land he admits to still needing to plough. However, this is only 100 of the 1500 acres that are covered each year. In the past the sandy land caused machinery problems with cultivators blocking up with trash and soil which compromises the packer.
“The trash flow is one of the biggest benefits of this machine. It doesn’t block up. In the past, when there has been left over straw at the end of rows, in oil seed rape stubble we have even had to use a flail, but the Performer goes straight through it.”
Working at depths of 300mm he has specified the cultivator with 50mm carbide tips rather than the larger 80mm alternatives. This was based on advice from his agronomist who carried out pressure tests to establish which would be more efficient. “There was a negligible difference and I have found the 50mm tips more than capable, especially at lower depths.”
The land is often compromised by wet conditions and the soil can be tricky to work with. The Performer can be run without applying the force of the packer. The packer can be lifted to allow it to float on top of the land in wet conditions and on softer soils. This has helped to improve drainage in some areas which has been of significant benefit during some of the extremely wet spells the farm has experienced in recent years.
Mr Harrison farms with his family and together they have established that by using the Performer, three tractors can work in the same field simultaneously.
“Last year we did 54 acres in a day, starting with the Performer which was followed by a secondary pass and then a drill. I think that in the lighter soils we can drill directly behind the Performer because it does such a good job of preparing the land.”
Unless the farm expands, he intends to keep the KUHN machine for up to ten years, despite previous cultivators not lasting more than five.
“It is so much better built than others we have had here. At around seven tonnes it is built like a tank, and nothing will get in its way. It is the perfect fit for the farm and a pleasure to operate,” he concludes.