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Versatile combination provides universal drilling solution

The ability to drill and keep drilling in a wide variety of conditions is increasingly the requirement of UK farmers. This may be due to the challenging ground conditions that have dominated recent drilling seasons, or because more and more farmers are choosing to combine minimum tillage and plough-based establishment systems.

Kuhn has responded to these changing requirements with the development of its Combiliner power harrow/drill range. Comprising of the company’s long-established HR power harrow in tandem with the Venta NC pneumatic drill, the Combiliner’s clever configuration affords it valuable adaptability and versatility.

Based at Inglesbatch in Somerset, the 490ha mixed farm run by the Pow family presents just the variety of conditions to test out Kuhn’s Combiliner concept.

With 250 dairy cows plus followers and steers for beef production, half of the farm supports grazing and silage, leaving a further 245ha for arable cropping.

Predominantly a heavy land farm with soils spanning the heavy brash to heavy clay zones, cropping majors on winter wheat with winter and spring barley taking a relatively small acreage overall. Forage maize is also important, with around 60ha grown each year.

“I always consider the forage maize to be an arable crop,” he says. “We use it within our rotation as a break for the wheat. We tend to grow two wheats, then barley and then its maize or grass.”

As with all heavy land farms timeliness at establishment is a key part of the management. There is an added challenge on a farm growing forage maize, which is usually not harvested until September or even later. By that time of the year, the ground can be wet and unforgiving and is likely to have some deep ruts in it caused by harvesters and trailers.

“Getting wheat into the ground after forage maize on this land can be a little taxing,” he says. “It is essential, however, that we do manage to establish a crop.”

Clearly, there was a need for a drill that could offer a high degree of versatility in its operating parameters and not only cope with difficult conditions left by forage harvesters but could also handle min-till and work directly on ploughing. Hence an earlier combination was replaced with a 3m Combiliner.

The drill was available with the choice of tine or disc coulters, with the Pows electing for the latter:

“We bale all the straw but where we min-till there can still be a quantity of surface trash and it is important that the discs cut through it rather than sweep it,” Mr Pow explains, adding that the amount of pressure that can be applied to the discs to assist in penetration is ‘awesome’.

Seed is metered electronically, from information provided by a land wheel, into an air stream produced by a hydraulically driven fan drawing oil from an on board hydraulic system. The seed is then distributed to the coulters.

“It’s a very easy system to calibrate and one that also appears to be incredibly accurate,” he says. “The seed is loaded from one tonne bags into the hopper by a loader.

“I suppose it is the versatility of the drill that really appeals to me. We work it directly into stubbles, into stubbles that have had a pass with the Shakerator, and directly into ploughing.”

Wet or dry, the power harrow unit has worked its way through all of these conditions and Mr Pow highlights its ability to float independently of the main drill structure and allow it to lift when it encounters an obstacle.
“In work, the weight of the hopper and its contents, and the coulters, are all carried on the press,” he explains. “Depth control is a simple matter of adjusting the ride height of the coulters in respect of the press.”

Operated on the back of a New Holland TM 155 tractor, Mr Pow says there is more than enough power available although he comments that the weight of the drill when loaded can make the tractor light on the front to the point that he needs to attach a front press to maintain balance.

Although maize has not been drilled with the Combiliner as this has been done by a contractor, Stuart says he can see no reason why it shouldn’t be used.

“Our maize harvesting contractor uses a Kemper header on his forager so I really do not doubt we could sow maize using all the coulters,” he adds. “There would be more spacing for individual plants so it could even improve the crop performance.”

As published in Farm Business, August 21, 2009





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