Cuts Cost of Seedbed Preparation

Adopting a new front mounted clod crushing and soil rolling system has markedly reduced the cost of seedbed preparation for a Perth farmer by enabling him to increase output by up to 40 per cent and reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent.

It has also cut down on the number of machines involved and reduced the hassle of swapping tractors, machines and wheels around to suit different soil conditions.

Andrew Stirrat farms 310 hectares of mainly cereals at Elcho, Rhynd, Perth. Last September, in a move to create more level, firmer seedbeds for quicker crop establishment and reduced slug activity, he purchased an OPICO Front Pakker from local dealers, Earnvale Tractors.

Designed to work directly on ploughed land, the Front Pakker has a working width of three metres and employs a ShattaBoard spring levelling board to work the soil in front of the 900mm press rings. A connecting rod system harnesses the combined strength of all the springboards to improve levelling, while the boards themselves cultivate and consolidate.

A double-acting hydraulic ram allows the operator to adjust the angle of the springboards while in work, and lift the springboards out of work if necessary.

Last autumn, Mr Stirrat used the front-mounted Front Pakker and rear-mounted one-pass Lely 45 power harrow, complete with three-metre disc drill on 190ha of wheat, barley and rape, on soils ranging from heavy clay through medium ground up to light stony land.

DELIGHTED

The results delighted him. "In the past, we were using a Kverneland front mounted power harrow in front of the one pass power harrow/drill on the clay to achieve a fine seedbed and used a cultivator or a press on the light land. Now, unless we need a really fine seedbed, the front power harrow will stay in the shed!

The Front Pakker is equally at home on the clay as it is on the stones. It makes a tremendous job."

Slug activity, too, has been reduced. Mr Stirrat's experience last autumn couldn't be in greater contrast to previous years. "To start with, it was drier, but as we aim to drill as early as we can to enable the crops to get off to the best possible start, this clashes with potato harvesting done in conjunction with a neighbour. In the past, this has been a nuisance as tractors and often wheels were swapped round to get the drilling combination right.

LIGHTER

"All the drilling can now be done with a four-cylinder John Deere 6410 tractor - rather than a six-cylinder 6610 - which is lighter and has better fuel consumption. But, more importantly, it frees up bigger tractors to cultivate stubbles or plough.

A lot of the time we were operating at speeds up to 9kph," he added. " You can go at any speed down hill, nut it's the tractor power and grip that govern your speed uphill. This is where the Front Pakker is excellent as it has a very low rolling resistance, making it easy to push uphill. You often don't know it's there.

Best results were achieved if the plough had two or three days drying in front, allowing the top to dry out which in turn lets the boards work much more efficiently.

As a rough estimate I reckon we could cut seed rates by at least 30 seeds/m."