During September Horsch hosted a European product launch event for the agricultural press at which new products due to have their official public launch at Agritechnica were shown and demonstrated. David Williams reports.
Since starting the manufacture of machinery as a sideline to its farm operation at Schwandorf near Regensberg, Germany, in the 1980s, the Horsch manufacturing business has grown to employ 1,000 people between its three sites in the country and, having reached the full capacity of its newest plant, Ronneburg which opened in 2007, during 2010, has invested heavily to cater for expected future demand for its products with a 20-million Euro expansion project; the largest in its history, now almost complete.
The popular Joker CT linkage-mounted disc stubble cultivator has been updated with larger discs to match those of the trailed Joker RT version. Previously 46cm, the new 52cm discs are said to provide more intensive working of the soil and trash, and to allow greater clearance for residues such as straw, manure and volunteer crops.
The Joker CT has a new frame and larger discs for more effective incorporation.
The Joker CT has a new frame and overall weight remains as the previous model, the 3m version claimed to require a 90hp tractor. The new frame has a more open design allowing the operator to see down into the discs making it easier to monitor and adjust its performance. The discs are arranged in pairs and mounted on solid rubber bearings. Disc bearings are maintenance-free.
Packer options include six versions; a 65cm diameter tyre packer, a 60cm RollCut, a 55cm FarmFlex, a 58cm SteelDisc and a 54cm cage drum roller as well as the most popular 54cm RollFlex.
Depth control is through the rear packer, and was previously set using steel clips, but is now also available as a hydraulic option providing adjustment on-the-move from the cab. The Horsch SoftRide system, which uses a nitrogen gas cylinder to absorb some of the shock loads can also be fitted and is said to maintain more even depth control.
The new Joker HD has even larger diameter discs than the CT and RT versions, and is designed for intensive shallow mixing of stubble down to 15cm. Disc diameter is 62cm to cope with large amounts of trash such as when operating in maize stubble. Conical discs are mounted in pairs with a cutting angle of 17 degrees and the bearings and rubber mounting points are maintenance-free.
The Joker HD has 62cm discs to work down to 15cm.
The discs are designed to throw material, spreading it evenly, and there is a large distance between the rear line of discs and the packer at the back which allows the soil to settle before consolidation. Large outer discs on each side pull in material preventing ridges. Despite the space between the discs and the packer the cultivator remains quite compact and a new transport wheel arrangement, which rotates the rear packer and transport wheels around each other when changing from transport to working mode, results in the transport wheels folded forward over the packer when in work transferring their weight over the working elements.
With the large discs needing up to 1,000kg/m to ensure effective penetration at speed, the resulting excellent weight distribution is a significant benefit and helps prevent the machine bouncing or rocking. The chassis design also makes it more manoeuvrable and allows the use of a double rear packer; options including a 55cm U-profile interlocking ring packer with 13cm ring spacing which is said to be resistant to stone damage even at high operating speeds while providing good consolidation and crumbling of the soil.
Working depth is adjusted using spacer clips on the rear packer with extra control at the front through the two 15.0/55-17 support wheels, but hydraulic depth control is an option adding approximately £600.
For 2014 only a 5.0m version of the Joker HD will be available with the new transport wheel folding arrangement, but 6.0 and 7.5m pre-production versions will be undergoing field testing with full availability expected for 2015.
Catering for those needing a shallow cultivator for stubble mixing and seedbed preparation in wider working widths are the Joker 10m and 12m RT models.
Joker RT versions offer working widths of 10 and 12m.
These have also benefitted from a new frame arrangement and the rear transport wheels fold forward over the rear packer, the soil having space to settle behind the discs before being consolidated. Front dual support wheels help maintain even working depth in spite of ground undulations and allow quick headland turns and the pairs of discs are held by 40cm rubber clamps. The 52cm discs are heavily serrated for aggressive working and to optimise penetration. Disc angle is fixed at 17 degrees and is said to have been proven to be effective in all soil types and conditions.
The frame folding rams are now mounted inside the large box-section frame, preventing them being ‘peppered’ by stones and soil thrown up by the discs. As on the smaller Jokers the disc mounts and bearings are completely maintenance-free having been filled with oil and sealed during manufacture.
At the rear, the extra space provided by the transport wheel arrangement allows the use of a double RollPack packer and with its middle chassis design, the Joker 10/12RT cultivators are said to run smoothly with excellent stability in work. Working depth is adjusted using clips.
For transport the wider Jokers fold to 3m.
Horsch started manufacturing strip-till drills in 2001 and its Focus TD, which used a 2-row tine system, was launched in 2007.
The Focus TD drill allows 15 or 30cm row spacing as well as tine or disc cultivation ahead of the coulters. Horsch said it provides a versatile solution to crop establishment problems.
At Agritechnica Horsch will be showing its latest Focus 4/6m TD drills which are designed to provide increased versatility for users, suitable for strip-till and conventional drilling. “Strip-till drilling is not an ideal solution on all soil types,” explained Horsch UK general manager Stephen Burcham, “and especially on heavier soils there is a need for alternative methods when conditions don’t suit strip-till techniques. Being able to use the same drill base unit for everything helps save money as only one drill is needed, while saving establishment costs when conditions allow.”
The new Focus TD has a cultivation unit under the hopper at the front of the drill, and the deep tine cultivator assembly can be removed, and replaced by a Joker-type disc cultivator assembly (DiscSystem) with 52cm discs relatively quickly, Horsch quoting a swap time of two hours for two people. The 2-row coulter system provides 15cm spacing for cereals and an alternative single row assembly can be fitted in its place with 30cm spacing for crops such as OSR.
The drill’s 5,000 litre hopper can be split 40/60 for fertiliser application during drilling, or its capacity used for seed. A clever option allows fertiliser application to be split evenly over two levels; 5-10cm or 20-25cm, or the whole application can be to either level.
The front cultivation element is easily removed and swapped.
The drill is available in 4 and 6m working widths and Horsch points out that the availability of the narrower width will allow smaller farms to benefit from the technology. Because the cultivation element is under the hopper, the drill is considerably shorter (1.2m) than before and the use of plastic hoppers together with the compact size have resulted in a lighter overall weight.
The new version of the TerraGrip tine extends to 75cm below the frame, similar to the arrangement on the Terrano FM cultivator, but on the drill, release forces have been increased to 800kg and tines are said to travel smoothly through the ground. Tine spacing for the drill is 30cm.
Levelling discs behind the tine frame are adjusted hydraulically and depending on the application can be set to create ridges or level the soil.
The tyre packer has been increased to 18-inches diameter making it easier to pull than the earlier machine.
The seed bar uses TurboDisc coulters from the Pronto drills and Horsch said they were selected as offering high coulter pressure and optimum contour following to plus or minus 15cm.
Hitching to the tractor is either by the tractor’s lower link arms or a drawbar and depth is regulated using metal clips.
Interest in single seeding techniques for cereal crops has been increasing in recent years, the technique optimising the space available for seeds to germinate and grow and maximising opportunity for tillering, saving seed while having no detrimental effect on yields.
A new singulator is available which ensures single seeds are released down the seed tubes to the coulter. Offering potential seed cost savings the new device is available on new drills or for retro-fitting to existing machines. Pictured with the singulator are Stephen Burcham (left) and Michael Horsch.
At the press event Horsch displayed for the first time a seed singulator, designed to handle cereals and OSR, for use on its conventional drills which, it said, allows operation at up to 120 grains per second; equivalent to 240 grains per square metre at 12kph with a 15cm row spacing, and with a coefficient of variation of 30-40 per cent.
The metering unit is designed for use with Horsch TurboDisc seed coulters, as used on the Pronto DC or Focus TD drills. The seed is supplied from the central hopper through a volume metering unit and then transported pneumatically to the respective seed row. The units can be retro-fitted and all that is needed is a new TurboDisc coulter body including a mounted metering unit.
The metering unit itself is a circular chamber with a spiral arrangement inside, and which contains a rotating blade. The seeds enter the chamber and accelerate travelling around the outside until one is transported through the spiral to the fall tube. The remaining grains are transported back to the start point and begin the singulation process again. “The singulator is a very simple design,” explained Steve, “and requires very little maintenance while its level of accuracy is extremely impressive for a conventional drill as opposed to a precision planter. The ability to provide optimum space for growth and to save seed will maximise yields and help save costs and we believe it will be very popular with owners of existing Horsch drills as well as those purchasing new machines.”
Partner for fertiliser incorporation
Front and rear fertiliser hoppers have been added to the Horsch range, for those needing to incorporate fertiliser while cultivating with the Terrano FM, MT and FX cultivators as well as for use with the Focus StripTill drill.
The Partner holds and distributes fertiliser for incorporation during cultivations.
Especially on very heavy and variable soil types the Focus TD sometimes meets its limits, pointed out Horsch, and using the new Partner fertiliser application system, fertiliser can be added during cultivation work while preparing a seedbed ready for drilling.
The Partner rear hopper has two compartments with a total capacity of 2,800 litres, the split partition allowing independent metering of two different components allowing application to be adapted to the soil type across the field. Seed can also be applied; eg catch crops, or OSR. The rear hopper is pressurised and Terrano cultivators already on-farm can be adapted for use with the hopper system.
The front hopper has a capacity of 1,800 litres and is designed for use with the Terrano FX, and all existing machines on farms can be upgraded to allow incorporation of fertiliser with the system.
Metering on front and rear Partner hoppers is provided by metering motors and rollers of the type used on the Pronto DC drills.
A new boom design which offers excellent stability was demonstrated at the event. Using active boom control the design is unique, explained Horsch. The boom is separated from the sprayer chassis, and carried on one central pivot pin, which ensures virtually no friction between the chassis and the boom preventing rolling motions of the carrying vehicle being converted to boom movement. The design means that even during cornering centrifugal forces don’t affect the boom position, and the inertia of the boom keeps it level even on very bumpy ground.
The boom mounting frame uses a pendulum-style design, with a pair of hydraulic rams acting on the lowest part of the boom frame, applying pressure to counteract any rotational forces. The rams are controlled by an adjuster which follows the movements of the vehicle in real time, and if adjustment is needed the rams operate to exert a rotational force. The position of the adjustment cylinder is constantly measured and kept up so the rolling motions of the vehicle are counter-balanced while adjusting. To accomplish this a very fast proportional hydraulic valve with new control software and a gyroscope sensor system are used.
The Horsch Leeb PT330 self-propelled sprayer was shown for the first time at the event, and had the new boom stability system fitted.
Advantages of the new boom include the ability to spray at just 30cm above the crop, even at 30kph on uneven ground, and headland turns can be accomplished at 20kph. The boom control system allows either side of the boom to be lifted, for use on severe ground undulations while still maintaining full boom stability.
The demonstration included headland turns carried out at high speed during which the boom remained almost totally level, and travel over sleepers with single or pairs of wheels and again the boom travel was relatively unaffected. Carried just 30cm above the stubble at high speeds and during turns there was no tendency for the boom to touch the ground.
An impressive recording of a boom test was shown, a glass of water placed on a boom end while the sprayer was driven over uneven ground and not only did the glass remain in position, hardly a drop of water was spilled.
New self-propelled sprayer
The new boom control system was demonstrated on a completely new self-propelled sprayer; the Horsch Leeb PT330. Capable of 60kph on the road and designed for applications at up to 30kph on soft ground in the field, the machine is powered by a Mercedes Benz 330hp (245kW) 6-cylinder power unit driving through a hydrostatic transmission to powerful wheel motors. Horsch explained that because maximum power is needed at the wheels during hill work, when usually either only the front or rear pair of wheels is carrying most of the weight, and capable of applying maximum traction, extra-large wheel motors have been fitted. Each pair is capable of transferring the full engine power to the ground when required.
Individual wheel suspension is provided and wheeltrack is hydraulically adjusted. The cab is just to the rear of the front axle which Horsch explained provides the best ride for the operator over bumpy ground. The cab is manufactured by Claas, and retains many of the company’s design features including the latest joystick control.
Pictured Left: The Claas cab is mounted rear of the front axle, and the ride is good, even at speed.
Farmers Guide took the opportunity of a short test-ride on the new sprayer, and found it excellent even over bumpy ground on the standard tyres. The cab, as expected, had plenty of room for the operator plus a passenger. Getting up into the cab means using pneumatic folding steps ahead of the front wheels and the only criticism was that the cab door opening was quite narrow, as it was restricted by the guard rail along-side the entry gantry. All the controls are within easy reach of the operator and the main control screen was easy to follow.
Visibility was surprisingly good for a mid-cab machine, mainly due to the nine-section 36m boom which, when folded for transport, remains well back from the rear of the cab, providing a good view to the back and sides.
The machine shown was a pre-production example, and final production sprayers due to be available during 2014 will feature quite a few differences, including a more powerful engine and, hopefully, better cab access. The induction bowl and fill control layout as well as the storage locker will all have a slightly different layout on production machines to the test models.
Price is quoted as approximately 300,000 euros, with the 36m boom.
Ground clearance is impressive, at 1.6m and hydraulic adjustment of the wheel track is standard.
Four test machines, including the one shown, have been operating in Germany and the Czech Republic during 2013 and results have been impressive, according to demonstrator Martin Wolf; “I very much enjoy driving it,” he said. “We have sprayed 6,500ha (16,000 acres) with the one sprayer in three months and the stability provided by the new boom control system has allowed us to travel at high speeds even on rough ground. In some cases I have had to reduce speed from 30kph when it has been very rough, not because of the boom, but because even with the wheel and cab suspension it was too rough for the operator.”
Martin said the largest area he has sprayed in one day is 700ha (1,700 acres), with a bowser bringing water to the field saving trips back to the farmyard to fill, but he said the field size was only average. “If I had been operating in larger fields then I believe 900ha (2,200 acres) would have been quite possible,” he said.
During the trials a lot of road work has been necessary, and Martin said the sprayer had performed well at 60kph. “It’s a big sprayer with a lot of ground clearance, and it proved good at high speeds on the standard tyres but with the narrower row crop wheels fitted for maize spraying, the travel speeds were reduced.”
Trailed range extended
A full range of Horsch Leeb GS trailed sprayers will be shown at Agritechnica, new 6,000 and 7,000 litre models introduced to provide a range from 6,000- 8,000 litres.
Horsch has also added to its trailed sprayer range with new GS6 and GS7, 6,000 and 7,000 litre versions available to complement the larger 8,000 litre sprayer.
The new sprayers have single axles and are equipped with air suspension. Total length is a compact 8.3m and total height is 3.6m, with standard width of just 2.8m.
Optional kingpin steering maintains the correct wheel tracking, even on side slopes.
Tanks are all stainless steel and are mounted over the main sprayer chassis with saddle-like mounting maintaining a low centre of gravity. The underside of the sprayer is enclosed and smooth to prevent crop damage, and a new hydraulic support leg is integrated under the drawbar.
Plumbing has been designed for minimum pipe lengths and ease of cleaning, reducing the amount of remaining fluid in the system. Pump capacity is 1,000 litres per minute and spray pressures of up to 8-bar are possible allowing application rates up to 600 litres/ha with a 30m boom at 12kph. Available boom widths are currently 21-36m and the boom suspension uses the hydraulically spring-loaded and damped parallelogram-system as has proved successful on the larger 8,000 litre GS8. Operating height is 0.3-2.5m above ground. As an option, BoomControl electronic boom suspension is available.
The sprayers have a high specification including stainless steel tanks and a very effective washing out system.
Pneumatic individual nozzle control means the spray line can be equipped with a large variety of nozzle body combinations from single nozzles at 50cm spacing to double nozzle bodies at 25cm spacing, and a quadruple nozzle body with intermediate nozzles.
Tank cleaning using the Horsch Leeb Continuous Cleaning System (CCS) is said to make cleaning safe and easy. First the line system is blown through with compressed air, then an additional piston diaphragm pump moves clean water into the tank through rotation nozzles. During the process the tank is constantly flushed with clean water while the spray pump sucks out the water from the tank, and the entire process is carried out from the tractor cab.
The sprayer control is Isobus compatible for suitably-equipped tractors.