26/06/2015 Primary tillage implements are multi-tasking
Ploughing may be the traditional way to break up the soil post-harvest but today’s demands to cover more land in less time whilst protecting the environment and promoting sustainable farming are encouraging the use of primary tillage implements of a different kind, says Cameron McKenzie, Seeding and Tillage Product Marketing Manager for the farm equipment brand, Challenger.
In selecting tillage equipment, crop producers need to get back to basics and ask themselves - how do I create the optimum seedbed in my soils in the most economical and environmentally-friendly way?
Modern tillage practices (such as conservation tillage, minimum till and reduced till) are designed to reduce soil erosion and moisture losses whilst saving on labour and fuel. The aim is to cut the number of passes across the field with the objective of ‘least cost establishment’ and, at the same time, solving soil compaction problems.
Also important in these tillage practices is the management of crop residue whereby certain amounts of trash are left to cover the soil to minimise erosion but not impede plant growth. Depending on the area and the variety, both maize and wheat are notorious producers of residue.
Such tillage practices can dispense with the need for traditional ploughing. Instead, farmers can employ multi-tasking implements which cut and mix crop residue, break up the hard pan and, when equipped with a finishing attachment, produce a level and smooth soil surface.
Post-harvest, primary tillage tools such as Coulter Chisels, Disc Rippers, Disc Chisels, Disc Rippers, In-Line Rippers and Chisel Ploughs can get to work.
In Russia and Eastern Europe, these big, rugged North American-style implements are the perfect solution for covering vast tracts of land as quickly, efficiently and economically as possible.
Along with its renowned high horsepower tracked tractors, Challenger offers a range of implements to tackle primary tillage operations.
These are heavy-duty pieces of kit capable of dealing with the hardest soils and high levels of residue. As such, they make big demands on tractor power - in the region of 35 to 45 hp per soil-engaging shank. The majority of these implements are available with rigid frame or folding frame. The latter folds conveniently for transport and enables even greater working widths to be achieved.
Key points to consider when deciding on primary tillage implements are:
* Type of preceding crop
* Residue levels (eg: heavy or light)
* Type of soil finish required (eg: smooth or rough)
* Depth of compaction
* Level (hardness) of compaction
* Type and number of shanks required, their spacing and trip force
* Working width and working depth of implement (depending on the amount of tractor horsepower available)
* Clearance - both the underbeam clearance (ie: the distance of the implement frame from the ground) and shank spacing
These factors need to be taken into account depending on residue levels so that the implement manages both residue and soil flow without clogging or matting. In general, tools with coulters are used when more residue needs to be left after the tillage pass, while tools with discs are employed where less residue is required to remain on the soil.
Breaking up hardpan and roughing up the surface will improve water and nutrient infiltration over the winter. Prior to deep tillage, operators are advised to probe their fields to determine the depth of the compaction zone. Studies have found that soil should be fractured 4-5cm below the compaction zone for best results.
The table below shows the range of Challenger implements available for primary tillage.
|Model||Type||Typical hp/shank||Working depth(cm)||Residue effect||Inversion/mixing||Surface finish|
|4200||Coulter Chisel||20 - 25||30 - 35||More||No||Rough to smooth|
|4400||Disc Ripper||40 - 50||40 - 45||Less||Yes||Smooth|
|4500||Disc Chisel||20 - 30||30 - 35||More||Yes||Smooth|
|4600;||Disc Ripper||40 - 50||40 - 45||Less||Yes||Smooth|