A good knowledge of the soil and its functioning is becoming more and more essential to make the best use of the tillage machines now available from specialist manufacturers such as Lemken.
This was highlighted during a recent demonstration day organized by Farm Power Ltd. in collaboration with Lemken, in Middleton, Co. Cork.
A wide selection of machines produced by the German company were in use on this day.
These covered the crop establishment process from primary tillage to sowing and, thanks to the acquisition of Steketee three years ago, mechanical weeding.
Start with the basics
The plow remains a popular tool in Ireland, according to Derek Delahunty, national sales manager for Lemken Ireland.
He argues that Ireland is a nation of ploughmen mainly due to the varying conditions on the island.
A cropping system that is very likely to work, regardless of what nature throws on the land, is naturally attractive to farmers when faced with such annual variation in weather conditions.
Minimum tillage, on the other hand, requires very precise husbandry throughout the season with narrow windows of opportunity to perform certain operations in order to achieve the best results.
While there may be farmers who are successful with minimal tillage, it is not for everyone and that, coupled with issues such as the appearance of black grass, means that the plow will still be around for. a long time, he thinks.
Remote adjustment brings advantages
There were two plows in the field, a five-furrow Juwel and a seven-furrow Titan. The latter was of variable width and both had hydraulically operated depth control.
The plow is the most basic tillage tool and, it would be easy to assume, is the least likely to give in to digital complexities and modern control systems.
This would be a mistake, however, because the level of finish that could be quickly achieved and maintained with these models was impressive.
With the ability to control the main plow functions from the cab, the effect of any correction to the settings is immediately visible. This eliminates the need to constantly jump on and off the tractor to check and adjust.
With models equipped with ISOBUS (none of them were), the settings are also displayed in the cab, which speeds up the learning curve for those who tackle plowing.
Derek is a huge fan of ISOBUS as an educational tool and finds that students can relate the finish obtained to the plow settings much more easily when these are displayed on the screen.
After the plow
Once the primary crop is finished, attention turns to the final preparation of the seedbed and sowing.
There are several methods available, from separate passes with a rotary cultivator, discs or tines, to an all-in-one approach, where a combination of either, with a drill mounted on the (s) tool (s), perform both tasks. in one pass.
Lemken has machines to cover all angles and naturally offers a range of combinations and options, which can seem quite confusing until one gets familiar with the different design philosophies involved.
Hanging discs by Lemken
The single disc harrow is a tool where the new thinking is evident.
It has more or less reinvented itself in recent years with the company developing the idea of considering the support of the weight of the tool as a function distinct from the control of its penetration.
The Rubin machine series is designed for this.
All disc sets, whether isolated or part of a larger single pass machine, are designed to help soil penetration and are placed at a fixed angle.
The intention is that they will “claw” their way into the ground and be prevented from sinking directly by the rear roller support and front link arms.
Thus, the discs are suspended above the ground and are only allowed to work at the depth defined by the operator. They are not load-bearing components, which has always been the traditional concept of their operation.
Universal system or dedicated tool?
This brings us to the next topic which is the choice between a modular system, which can be adapted to immediate needs, or a fixed combination of the different elements, which can be cheaper and lighter, but less flexible.
Lemken responds to both schools of thought and an example of each has been shown.
The modular system was based on a Solitair seeder attached to a Zirkon 12 rotary cultivator. Between the two, and attached to the cultivator, was a roller which was set to consolidate the soil before the coulters placed the seed.
They were all held together by a beam with transport wheels at its end. The different elements are somehow attached to this structural unit, and therefore can be mixed and matched for different tasks and conditions.
It is obviously a well thought out and attractive system for those with large areas and a variety of conditions and crops.
Once again, Lemken relies on the tractor’s link arms, and in this case, the coulters to support the weight at the rear. The transport wheels move a little above ground level when the device is in use.
As an alternative to a modular system, the company offers the Compact Solitair 9.
The example on display featured a leveling board followed by discs, then a series of offset tires for compaction.
The coulters brought up the rear. Although it can be specified in different forms, the elements are an integral part of the whole, when assembled.
Lemken says goodbye to spraying
In October 2018, Lemken bought the Dutch company Steketee, which specializes in inter-row crops and weeding.
In less than two years it ceased producing sprayers and now appears to be focusing its weed control efforts on mechanical rather than chemical means.
Currently, the machines are geared towards large-scale vegetables and other broadleaf crops, but that may change as the pressure grows on farmers to reduce pesticide inputs.
Derek certainly sees grains becoming a target market for inter-row crops.
How this will fit into 24m or larger tramline systems remains an open question, but the idea of a growing company to expand its expertise to encompass allied weed control methods would seem logical. .
The acquisition also provided the parent company with weed control technology based on plant imagery.
However, instead of identifying the weed species and eliminating them, the system searches for the crop and removes anything that is in the wrong shape or color, and in the wrong position.