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Justifying a brand new drill on a small acreage Strong build, a high level of specification for the money and consistent seed placement put the Maschio Alitalia top of the list for Wiltshire arable and beef farmer Derek Robinson when it came to selecting a new power harrow combination drill.

When you’re growing a relatively small acreage of cereals it’s difficult to justify shelling out big sums of money on shiny new cultivation kit. But for one Wiltshire based arable and beef farmer, there’s one exception to the rule – the drill. “When you think about it the drill is pretty much the most important piece of equipment on the farm,” says Wiltshire arable and beef farmer Derek Robinson. “It’s responsible for everything that’s going to happen in the following season – and ultimately what ends up in your bank account.” So when his 24-year-old power harrow drill combination started to show serious signs of age and crop establishment began to suffer as a result, he decided he needed to look at his options for a replacement. “With two and half decades under its belt our old drill was suffering significant metal fatigue and constantly requiring attention from the welder. “So I started to look around for a good second hand combi-drill. Pretty quickly it became apparent that you

had to pay big money for anything half decent otherwise we’d end up with something no better than what we already had. “So the next obvious step was to look at a refurbished rig. While doing that I got some prices on new machines as a means of comparison – when you sat down and did the maths there wasn’t very much in it.” Various different options were considered and when it came down to it, it was a Maschio Alitalia combination that shone out. “We went through everything in detail and made sure we were comparing like-for-like. Ultimately the Maschio build quality and its high spec won through – it offered the best value for money. “Electronic metering was something I was keen on having but the critical thing was disc coulters. With our old Suffolks we struggled to get consistent seed placement – they would just ride up over trash.”

Proved itself

Calibration is exceptionally straightforward – place a tray under the metering rollers, press a button, weigh what comes out and input that into the RDS control box – it does the rest.

Since its arrival last year at Boyds Farm near Corsham, the Alitalia has certainly proved itself in that department. With a fair acreage of reclaimed land, the Robinsons often have less than ideal soil conditions to contend with. “We aim for simple cultivations without too many passes. Our establishment approach is pretty straightforward – plough, roll and then go in direct with the drill. “But because we’ve got rough reclaimed land with stones and subsoil on the surface, we have to stick with a combination. The Maschio power harrow has a good name for being a strongly built machine and the

drill has proved to be far better than we’d anticipated at coping with the rubbish that comes to the surface.” Key to this are the disc coulters which are far better able to chop through trash and, because their down pressure is hydraulically controlled and much stronger than a simple spring set-up, they cut through clods, maintaining an even depth. Being able to tweak the pressure on a spoolvalve means it’s easy to continue that consistency as seedbed conditions vary.

hopper outlet, press the button on the back of the drill, weigh what is churned out and adjust the rate on the control box. The RDS computer is easy to use. It provides all the info you need and alerts you if there’s a problem such as fan speed,” he comments. The other big benefit of the Maschio metering system is its interchangeable rollers. With three different cartridges for small, medium and large seeds, it means accuracy is maintained no matter what’s going through. That versatility and the ability to shut down to just one section for really low rates (OSR for example) makes it very accurate. “The accuracy of the metering and the consistency of seed placement have made a big difference to the reliability and evenness of our crop establishment,” says Mr Robinson. “It might seem like a bit of an extravagance to have a brand new drill on our acreage but with its strong build I’m more than confident we’ll get another 24 years out of the Maschio drill,” he concludes. ■

Coulter rows The other big benefit is that there are two rows of coulters rather than three, making the whole rig significantly shorter and more manoeuvrable. The accuracy of seed placement is mirrored with the precision of the electronic metering system. “With the GPS feed it is 100 per cent accurate and it’s so much more convenient to calibrate than the old land-wheel drive arrangement,” says Mr Robinson. “You just put the tray under the

“The consistency of seed placement and the accuracy of the metering system on the Maschio drill have significantly improved the reliability and evenness of our crop establishment,” says Derek Robinson.

FARM FACTS A&D Robinson, Boyds Farm near Corsham, Wilts Farmed area: Cropping:

142ha (350 acres) Spring barley 45ha (111 acres); winter wheat 28ha (70 acres); oilseed rape 20ha (50 acres); potatoes 10ha (25 acres); lucerne 4ha (10 acres) – remainder down to permanent pasture Livestock: 30 pedigree Hereford cows plus another 15 commercial sucklers. Followers sold as stores or stock bulls. Machinery: Tractors – MF 6150, NH TM150 and TM120 Loader – JCB 526-60 Combine – MF 38 with 18ft Powerflow header Drill – 3m Maschio Alitalia power harrow combination

64 July 2017

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