Using a tractor equipped with low ground pressure tyres in conjunction with a plough fitted with wide plough bodies has given rise to a number of benefits to the way arable farmer Norman Millar prepares seed beds on his Scottish Borders farm.
Mr Millar of Nethermains, Chirnside, farms 480 acres of arable land in addition to 100 acres of grass and woodland and a herd of housed beef bulls. His arable rotation, which includes high eruric oilseed rape followed by two wheats and a barley crop, is grown on land that varies from light sands to heavy clay soils, and everything in between.
“Each year we face the same problem of working out which fields are dry enough to begin working,” Mr Millar explains. “Without knowing exactly where we can travel we face the risk of making a mess at best, and getting machinery stuck at worst.”
Traditionally Mr Millar’s tractors were fitted with standard tyres, with dual wheels fitted for rolling and seed drilling. However, constantly having to fit and remove the extra set of wheels for different duties was a time consuming and frustrating process. Therefore, like many other farmers, Mr Millar has chosen to permanently fit 710mm wide low ground pressure tyres to each of his main workhorses.
Norman Millar has fitted low ground pressure tyres to each of his main workhorses and uses them in conjunction with his Kuhn Vari-Master plough.
“Using wide tyres takes away some of the issues associated with our variable ground, and gives us a wider window to work the land,” Mr Millar explains.
But using wide tyres for all the farm’s ground work operations has led to a new problem. “When we first fitted the wide tyres we were using a five furrow plough with normal plough bodies. That meant that with each pass, the wide tyres were compacting the previously ploughed furrow.”
In order to find a solution to this problem, Mr Millar tried a Kuhn Vari-Master plough on demonstration. This had been fitted with the optional wider L-bodies and was tested on 20 acres.
“In order not to damage the soil structure while ploughing we needed to create a furrow that was wide enough to accommodate the full tyre width. The L-bodies on the Vari-Master plough filled that brief perfectly and gave plenty of space for the entire wheel width.”
Mr Millar was so impressed that he decided to replace his existing plough ahead of schedule.
“We would normally expect our ploughs to have a working life of 15 years or more,” he explains. “But the Kuhn plough gave us an immediate solution so we decided to change machines even though our existing plough had only done five seasons.”
And Mr Millar is pleased with the new plough’s performance to date. “Because the L-bodies move the furrow further the soil is fully inverted and cracked open more effectively. The new plough also buries trash better than our old model which makes seeding easier and quicker.”
The new plough is also fitted with Kuhn’s Vari-Width system which allows the furrow width to be changed from the tractor cab. “This saves an impressive amount of time and means the plough can cope with changing soil conditions even within the same field. The bodies are set closer together on heavier ground which ensures that even the stiffest soils are properly broken down.”
Although it is difficult to accurately substantiate how much crop yields are affected by soil compaction during the ploughing process, Mr Millar feels confident that the combination of wide plough bodies and low ground pressure tyres makes it easier to spread workloads. “We can’t put an exact figure on how yields are affected, but from a management point of view, using the wider tyres certainly enables us to be more flexible and to work the land when we want to as opposed to when the weather dictates conditions are right.”