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Drills & Drilling

Power on the land

Although various forms of reduced tillage have been adopted on many farms, there is still a big acreage grown with traditional cultivations, but plenty of drill options are available to suit all the establishment methods, writes Mike Williams.

The Vaderstad Rapid drill is available in three series, all providing seedbed preparation, levelling, drilling and reconsolidation in a single pass with the versatility to drill directly into stubble, after plough based traditional cultivations or in a minimum tillage sequence. The three series start with the Rapid 330 and 400 C/S models with 3 and 4m working widths, 3,000- and 4,350-litre hopper sizes and 90hp minimum tractor requirement, and at the top of the range are the A600 and 800 models with 6 and 8m widths, 6,000-litre hopper capacity and needing 240hp plus.

All the Rapid drills work at 125mm row spacing and a special coulter design provides depth adjustment from the cab with a high operating pressure capability for dealing with varied ground conditions.

Vaderstad also offers the Spirit pneumatic drill range with extra seeding precision features including depth control for individual rows and the coulters have a unique suspension with pressure adjusted from the cab.

Best selling tine drill

Weaving Machinery’s drill options include the Tine Drill for both plough based cultivations and minimum tillage. Said to be the UK’s best selling tine type drill, it has 4 rows of auto-set tines at 12.5cm spacing and is available in 7 widths from 3.0–6.8m at list prices from £13,400. The Sabre Tine is for minimum or zero tillage, equipped with three rows of slim-line tines with tungsten steel tips and rubber shock absorbers. The tine angle is adjustable and a sliding coulter tube varies the sowing depth. RDS Artemis Lite controls are included and prices start at £17,800 for working widths from 3–6m.

The Weaving DD series for direct drilling is offered as a 3m wide mounted drill in seed only or seed plus fertiliser versions priced from £32,000 with a 1,600-litre hopper and RDS Artemis Lite controls. Trailed models from 4–8m wide need about 35hp/m, and list prices from £53,800 include 5,000-litre hopper capacity and RDS Isoscan equipment.      

Traditional and conservation

With mechanical or pneumatic operation, working widths between 2.5–12.0m and hopper sizes from 650–5,800 litres, Lemken drills offer plenty of choice for both traditional and conservation crop establishment. Solitair pneumatic drills start with the 8 series in 3–4m widths for mounting on various Lemken cultivators, and are equipped with mechanically driven seed metering plus electronic tramline setting and seed rate adjustment. The 9 series up to 6m wide can be rigid or folding and either mounted or semi-mounted. Widths are 8–12m in the trailed 12 series featuring electrically driven metering shafts and a coulter bar in two sections with hydraulically assisted contour following.

Lemken Saphir 7 mechanical drills with 650–1,100-litre hopper capacities work with implements including the Zirkon power harrow and can be semi-mounted or carried on the tractor linkage. The Saphir 8 is similar, but features electronic control for the electrically driven metering shafts.

Variable conditions

The Jockey seed drill in the Kockerling machinery range distributed by Hampshire based Samagri is available with a 6m working width that reduces to 3m for transport. It is based on the Kockerling Allrounder cultivator and is suitable for crop establishment in a wide range of conditions including ploughed land or a mulched seedbed. There are 4 rows of tines with 16.6cm spacing and 60cm of clearance beneath the frame allows the Jockey to cope with surface trash.

Available in the UK since 2012, it has a 2,800-litre hopper capacity and is equipped with seed metering linked to radar speed measurement to maintain accuracy.   

Samagri also offers the Boxer drill from the Kockerling range, available in seed only or seed plus fertiliser specifications. The Boxer is trailed and attached to the tractor linkage and is designed to work with a wide range of cultivation or strip tillage equipment.

Cost savings

Zero tillage crop establishment using the Sumo DD direct drill can achieve 70 per cent cost saving compared with using traditional cultivations, the manufacturer says, and around a 55 per cent reduction measured against minimum tillage. As well as the cost savings, Sumo UK also claims additional direct drilling benefits including improved soil structure, easier grass weed control, better soil moisture retention, reduced erosion, better drainage and the ability to include cover crops in the rotation.

The Sumo DD direct drill is available in mounted and trailed versions, working widths are 3–9m and hopper capacities are from 3,000–3,600 litres. Trailed drills can be supplied with the optional fertiliser kit including a hopper with a 50/50 split for carrying seed plus fertiliser. Sumo also offers a DTS or Deep Tillage Seeder toolbar allowing strip tillage seeding to be used. Row spacing is 333mm and working widths are 3m for the rigid version or 4m with hydraulic folding.

The three versions of the Mzuri Pro-Til drill are all designed for one-pass strip tillage, but they can also be used with both traditional plough based cultivations and with minimum tillage systems. The standard Pro-Till drill features in-cab adjustment of the seed rate and hydraulic pressure is applied on each seed depth wheel individually to ensure effective seed-to-soil contact for faster germination, with fertiliser placed just below the seed for easy access. Mounted and trailed 3m wide Pro-Til drills are available plus 4 and 6m trailed versions.

Adjustable row width spacing on the Pro-Til Select drills provides extra versatility for establishing crops such as maize, legumes and oilseed rape, available on trailed drills up to 6m wide. The Xzact drills offer strip-till capability plus the ability to use a special toolbar to provide precision seeding technology.

Multi-purpose drilling

There are two Sulky drill series in the machinery range from Sulky-Burel including the pneumatic Xeos models designed for multi-purpose drilling. Available in 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0m working widths and with hopper capacities of 1,000–1,800 litres, they handle a wide range of seeds from beans to rapeseed at rates up to 450kg/ha. Design features include radar speed measurement for rate control and either Pilot or Ultron electronic control consoles are included depending on the model. A recent addition is the Duo hopper option providing a separate 70 litres of capacity for sowing a second product placed close to the main crop seeds at rates up to 15kg/ha.

Sulky’s Tramline mechanical drill series have 3 and 4m working widths and hopper capacities from 550–1,350 litres depending on the model, and there is a choice of row widths from 20–25 rows on the 3m width, while the 4m drill can have between 28–33 rows. 

New feature makes light work of heavy soils


Heavy land is much more workable with the Horsch PowerDisc coulter which is now available as an option on the 3, 4 and 6m Pronto DC drill. In particular it is effective on the Serto for those working heavy soils, says Horsch.

The PowerDisc coulter uses a parallelogram pivot that enables a pressure of up to 150kg per coulter. This proven design ensures that the coulter has a more consistent sowing depth and slot closing in these conditions.

Designed for high-speed precise sowing after plough, mulch sowing or direct seed, the Pronto DC offers precise depth control due to its preconfigured packer system and a choice of high-performance seed coulters, says the manufacturer.

Horsch uses the components of the Pronto DC seed drills for hopper and metering in its latest Avatar SD, a direct seed drill that uses discs rather than tines.

Available in 6m, 8m and 12m working widths, the Avatar’s high tare weight and up to 220kg coulter pressure makes it ideal for direct seeding. The strong coulter frame eliminates sideways movement, which ensures that the coulter keeps to the set sowing depth on uneven soils.

Due to the high coulter pressure, depth control of the coulters is carried out via a larger and stronger version of the Pronto’s well-proven rubber suspension. The  row spacing is 16.7cm on 6 and 8m models and 25cm on the 12m version.

Overcoming cover crop challenges


Establishing cover or green manure crops can be a challenge at an already busy time of the year when soil moisture can be variable.

The T-Sem drill was initially developed and sold in France where the practise of cover cropping was adopted much earlier, so this was a requirement of their design right from the start.

“Establishing cover crops can be very challenging, firstly the ground can be quite hard, with limited moisture that you don’t want to lose,” said Simtech’s Simon Clarke. “Secondly there will normally be large amounts of surface trash that must pass through the drill unhindered and must not be ‘hair-pinned’ into the seed slot where it will absorb moisture and reduce seed to soil contact.” A tine is best for this job and the addition of the T-Sem’s inverted T-Slot coulter where the natural capillary action for raising moisture is maintained, means that the seed has the best possible chance of establishing quickly, he added.

“Once you have a well-established cover crop, the next challenge is to plant the next cash crop into it. It may be that it has been destroyed over winter by frost or sprayed off with Glyphosate, or it may still be fully green if you are drilling in the autumn,” said Simon. “The T-Sem will once again have to deal with the surface material, which sometimes may require the addition of a front mounted crop roller, but the same principals apply for moisture conservation and seed slot cleanliness to get the best establishment.”

Another level of black-grass control


British manufacturer Triton says that its seed drill delivers “a new level of all-weather capability for cultural control of black-grass”.

The Triton cuts 6in down into the field using non-inversion seeding blades which lift the whole field up giving air, drainage and rooting directly under every plant. The side-press tines then close the seed slots without the need for a press or roller. The blades have a number of features to prevent seed falling down the deep slot and to give enhanced rooting. These new features put tine drills back at the forefront of progressive seeding and allow farmers to plant wheat crops in November, into heavy clay, after the black-grass burden has subsided.

The Triton allows a rotation to be planned in the face of resistant black-grass so that drought prone spring crops can be largely avoided, says the manufacturer. The Rock-Hopper version copes with stoney ground and allows all-day drilling into brutal conditions in marginal mixed farming areas. The Triton plants all seed types without adjustment from rape and grass to beans and maize with all the cereals crops in between. Prices start from £15,250+VAT for the seed hopper or from £19,500 with rear hopper fitted.

Pneumatic seed drill range extended


Kuhn Farm Machinery has extended its Venta pneumatic seed drill range with the addition of 1010 series machines. In combination with the company’s HR power range, the drills are suited to working at varying seeding depths in a wide range of soil conditions.

Available in 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0m working widths, this new series of drills has seeding units equipped with Suffolk coulters and adds to a current Venta range that includes the 1020 series with double disc coulters and 1030 series machines with Kuhn’s Seedflex precision coulter bar.

Suffolk coulter seeding units on the 1010 series machines allow the optimum seeding depth to be maintained by an adjustable depth stop. Each seeding unit operates with 35kg of pressure.

As with all Venta drills, machines have a volumetric fluted metering unit with large splines for larger seeds and small splines for smaller seeds. Rates can be set from the tractor cab from 1–430kg/ha. A remote calibration “start button”, located close to the Venta’s metering unit, makes calibrating the machine easy to achieve without the need to go back into the tractor cab to access the drill’s main control panel.

Operating in combination, tillage and seeding are carried out independently due to a roller frame design which effectively separates the two functions.  This allows for a more compact unit and enables the two units to be uncoupled in less than 10 minutes.

The drills are available with 1,500- and 1,800-litre hopper capacities. LED lighting is fitted on the hopper’s metering unit as standard. 

Making the right drill choice


Whether seeding in ploughed fields or min-till, the Vitu is always the right choice, according to Kockerling importer Samagri.

This is because the double disc coulters allow the Vitu to place the seed very precisely even at high working speeds. In addition, a two-row wheel packer ensures the machine can keep working even in marginal conditions.

High performance

To fulfil the requirements of a high performance disc drill, the Vitu comes equipped with a double row of 450mm discs, a levelling board, followed by a tyre packer for necessary consolidation. There are options for depth control which can be mechanical or hydraulic.

The drill is available in working widths of 3, 4 and 6m with the combined fertiliser/seed model at 6m.


For those looking for a simple heavy-duty tine drill, the Jockey is ideal for min-till, plough based systems as well as direct seeding on lighter soils, says the company.

Available since 2012, it has four rows of Hercules tines and 16.6cm row spacing. Moreover, it has 60cm under-frame clearance for working in large amounts of crop residues, it adds.

This drill comes with front crossboard as standard, and offers optional wheel track eradicators.

It is is available in 6, 9, and 10m working widths.

With a guaranteed even sowing depth at high speeds, the Ultima out-performs any other tine Seeder on the market today, the company claims.

Controlled hydraulically

This is because the sowing depth is controlled hydraulically by a pre- press wheel located in front of each tine, ensuring a consistent seeding depth even on the most uneven seed beds.

Available in 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9m working widths, the row spacing is 17.5cm with a 50mm band of seed. Each row is followed by an STS ring which ensures good soil-to-seed contact, adds Samagri.

Strip tillage system suits spring cropping


British manufacturer Mzuri has put its range of Pro-Til establishment equipment to the test on its trial farm in Worcestershire.

In particular the company was testing the range’s suitability for establishing spring crops. Springfield Farm has been the testing ground for the system since 2010.

Farmer and inventor Martin Lole believes the Mzuri Pro-Til’s design lends itself well to spring drilling, providing a consistent and cost-effective means of crop establishment: “Spring is a time when there is little room for error. To make the most of the narrow window, you need a system that can establish a crop quickly and efficiently time and time again,” he advised. 

“With increased pest pressures, whether that be pigeons or slugs, getting a crop up and away is key to a successful spring crop.”

On the farm’s heavy Evesham Lias clay, accurate seed placement and reconsolidation have improved overall germination and encouraged even crop establishment from headland to headland. This reliability of establishment has been the turning point for widening the farm’s rotation and adopting a spring crop – something that Martin is a great advocate of.

The Pro-Til’s front discs cut through the bulkiest of cover crop residue, while the individually hydraulically pressurised coulters place the seed at an accurate depth even in undulating conditions. Dual reconsolidation, courtesy of the press and coulter wheels, ensures good seed-to-soil contact and keeps out pests such as slugs.

In dry springs, strip tillage is ideal for retaining moisture in the soil, he continued. “Heavy cultivations lose valuable moisture from the soil before drilling even starts, which may not be replenished in a dry season.”

By target cultivating a narrow strip, moisture is retained in the soil to the benefit of the crop.

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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