Versatile deep cultivator helping meet green farming objectives

A large-scale farming operation focused on green energy production has invested in a pair of one-pass deep cultivators which will be used for all future cultivations. David Williams saw the machines in action.

Pretoria Energy Company (Arable) Ltd operates from a base near Ely in Cambridgeshire. The renewable cropping regime includes rye, and maize. Cover crops are grown between main crops to improve soil condition and for weed control. The rye is grown for energy production and harvested wholecrop, and it is used along with the maize to fuel the company’s anaerobic digester plants for energy production.

Timely operations

To ensure operations are completed within the required time windows requires a fleet of high-output machinery. The tractor line-up includes two 500hp Claas Xerions which do most of the heavy fieldwork.


Part of the change to more sustainable farming has included reduced cultivations. The selection of cultivators used until this season included models which could struggle with high volumes of trash and cover crops, and others with depth control wheels across the working width that sometimes blocked in sticky conditions. Demonstrations of new cultivators that appeared more suitable took place this autumn, including the Kuhn Performer.

Versatile cultivator

The Kuhn Performer has disc and tine elements capable of working direct into stubbles or on ploughed and pre-cultivated ground and will usually achieve a seedbed in a single pass. A double row of 510mm diameter, 6mm thick curved and notched discs at the front cut through trash and provide mixing with loose soil near the surface. These are followed by four rows of curved deep loosening tines with 900kg hydraulic breakback protection. Interspaced with the third row of tines, a pair of transport wheels with large flotation tyres can also provide depth control.

The fourth bank of tines is behind the wheels, followed by a full-width row of levelling discs, and a heavy packer roller at the rear provides depth control and leaves a consolidated, level and clod-free surface.

Independent adjustment of all the working elements makes the cultivator suitable for a wide variety of soil types and situations. In wet, sticky conditions, the front discs, levelling discs and rear packer can be raised out of work to use only the wide-spaced tines for cultivation with depth control provided by the large centre wheels. Alternatively, with the tines raised the discs can be used on their own with depth adjustment by the rear packer to achieve high-speed shallow cultivations to create a fine tilth for drilling or stale seedbeds for black-grass and volunteer control after harvest. In very light or soft, damp soils there is also the option to share the weight of the cultivator between the rear packer and the transport wheels to ensure consistent working depth.

The Kuhn Performer has a mix of deep working curved legs which relieve compaction and achieve thorough mixing, as well as discs and a heavy rear packer to break up clods and leave a level surface for drilling.

Soil loosening and seedbed creation

The main tines can operate to a maximum depth of 35cm, as deep as most subsoilers. The standard point width is 50mm; 80mm points are an option, and 350mm curved wings can be added above the tine point to progressively increase tine width and the mixing effect for effective shallow working. “The standard 50mm tines are ideal for deep working to break through compaction pans and loosen and mix the soil,” explained Kuhn tillage specialist, Rupert Greest. “Adding the 350mm wings ensures thorough mixing at shallower working depths, but because they attach above the base of the tine, the 50mm point is retained and this works lower down to loosen soil and allow drainage without the risk of a wider point smearing and creating a pan.”

Impressed by dealer support

When Pretoria farming landwork manager, Aidas Paliulis contacted Kuhn main dealer, Collings Bros Ltd, based at Abbotsley near Huntingdon he was impressed by the response. “We had been considering new cultivator options for more than a year but even after all that time, some suppliers still hadn’t managed to arrange demonstrations. We spoke with Collings Bros area sales manager, Todd Roberts for the first time this autumn, and later the same day there was a 5m Performer on our farm for testing. The first task was incorporating dense cover crops and it performed exceptionally well, so Todd agreed to leave it with us for several more days so that we could try it in a wider range of soils and conditions.

“We returned it on a Saturday morning and requested a quotation which arrived by the Monday. We placed our order on the Wednesday, then collected the Performer two days later and immediately put it to work. When Todd called to check progress after a few weeks we told him it was performing well, and he responded that he had another similar machine in stock, so we ordered that too. Both are 5m versions which operate behind our Xerion 5000 tractors.”

Pride in result

Within five weeks of its arrival on the farm, the first Performer had already worked more than 700ha. “I far preferred it to other cultivators we trialled,” explained tractor operator, Neil Wheeler. “Considering the size, it’s easy to manoeuvre around obstructions and ensure all the land is worked. The rear tine row is behind the central transport wheels, so I can reverse these right into the corners having lifted the rear packer up out of the way from the cab.

“I take pride in my work and feel the Performer always produces a good result. It hasn’t blocked once so far, no matter how much damp trash has been present.”

Improving drainage

When Farmers Guide visited the farm, the Performer was working land directly behind a sugar beet harvester in wet, sticky conditions. The discs and rear packer were lifted out of work, and tine depth was controlled by the transport wheels. Aidas explained that his priority was to create a broken, permeable surface that would allow rainfall to penetrate and drain away rather than to remain on top over winter in the harvester and trailer wheelings.

Pictured (l-r) Pretoria Energy tractor operator, Neil Wheeler; Collings Bros area sales representative, Todd Roberts; and Kuhn tillage product specialist, Rupert Greest.

One-pass for all crops

This year, Aidas plans to cultivate all the crop stubbles using the Performer cultivators. The deep working curved tines will perform the subsoiling function – lifting the land and relieving compaction while thoroughly mixing trash to achieve a quick breakdown of organic matter, and the combination of discs and tines plus the heavy rear packer will leave the land ready for seeding by one of the farm’s mixed fleet of drills. Seed applicators will also be fitted to the Performers after harvest, allowing cover crops to be established during cultivations and saving an additional pass.

Sustainable farming

“We need the capability to continue working and achieving high work rates even when conditions are challenging, but avoiding soil damage and farming sustainably is always our priority,” confirmed Aidas. “The Kuhn Performer cultivators are just what we have been looking for – they provide a one-pass solution which reduces the number of field operations needed to produce our crops and they will help us to look after our soils while meeting our sustainable farming objectives.”

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