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Double advantages offered by replacement seed coulters

Increasing demand for a range of replacement drill coulters isn’t just because of the improved crop establishment. David Williams visited users to find out what makes them so appealing. Pan Anglia Ltd, based at Sudbury, Suffolk is the UK importer for Canadian Dutch Openers and became involved with the manufacturer when a customer requested a set believing they would improve his drill performance. “Back-up from Canada is superb,” explained key account manager Tony Rook. “Since importing the first set six years ago the service and support we can pass on to our customers has been excellent and the Dutch Openers are performing well in situations from direct drilling to conventional crop establishment, in all soil types. Most sales are by recommendation and whatever the farm’s initial objective in considering the purchase, they seem to offer an effective solution. “Almost all are for Horsch Sprinter drills, replacing standard Duet coulters and an advantage is that they just bolt on where the original lower leg and coulter is removed. Users concerned they might not suit their needs have the reassurance that the originals could be quickly re-fitted, but this isn’t something we have experienced,” he added.

Tom Hawthorne is pictured with the Horsch Sprinter drill equipped with Dutch Openers.

Improved timeliness Farming just over 2,200ha of very heavy Denchworth and Fladbury series clays in Nottinghamshire, Flawborough Farms converted its 12m Horsch Sprinter to Dutch Openers in 2015. The land is a mix of owned and long-term contractfarmed and cropping includes wheat; always accounting for 40 per cent of the farmed area, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, winter and spring beans along with maize and hybrid rye grown for an AD plant. Tom Hawthorne, who runs the farm with his sister Tabs and their parents John and Emma, explained that the proportion of winter and spring cropping changes each year, influenced by the weather. Before 2012 crop establishment was mainly non-inversion deep tillage, before pressing then seeding using a Horsch drill with standard Duet coulters. Wet weather during autumn 2012 created problems getting crops established with some re-drilling needed. “It was a tight rotation and we were creating a high level of risk,” commented Tom. “We knew we needed to drill later but the 2012 situation demonstrated we had to alter our system to achieve this, and we started the move toward controlled traffic farming and invested in a 12m Horsch Sprinter drill. Combine headers were the restricting factor but they evolved, and in 2014 we were able to move to wider shallow cultivations using a 12m Horsch Joker cultivator. Oilseed rape was direct-drilled but all autumn crops were established following two passes with the Joker; one immediately behind the combine and the other in September, then drilling in October.”

Tom said the Dutch Openers’ low draft requirement provides significant fuel savings when used behind the Claas Xerion.

The system is working well, forming part of the Hawthorne’s black-grass control programme but the Joker’s discs don’t always suit the challenging heavy soils so it is being replaced by a 12m Horsch Cruiser tine cultivator this autumn. Spring crop establishment usually includes a 5in tilth from a 6m Horsch Terrano cultivator, then crops are drilled direct into the over-wintered seedbed when conditions allow.

Reduced soil disturbance Tom said his main reason for fitting Dutch Openers was reduced soil disturbance. “The Duet coulters performed well, but moved soil significantly deeper than the seeding depth. Moving that extra 2in of soil is expensive, but it also creates problems as wet, plastic clay is pulled to the surface and is hard to deal with. Our Fladbury-series soils have high alluvial clay and magnesium content - they are a pig to manage. Fieldwork is much easier if that can be left down below working depth so the more we reduce soil movement the better. “If we are drilling at 2in then we just want to move the top 2in of soil,” he concluded. Selecting Dutch Openers followed experimentation with alternatives imported from all over the world. “I researched what was available and tried samples of everything which looked suitable, including prototype coulters from Horsch, but we know

Pan Anglia well; the Dutch Opener price was competitive and it seemed to offer everything we wanted.” The 12m Horsch Sprinter drill with its replacement coulters is used for all crops and, although a 6m mounted tine drill was kept as a ‘fire engine’ drill, it wasn’t needed in 2016, and planted only 70ha of spring beans in early 2017. “We have a lot of ground to cover and limited time to establish crops while conditions are optimal,” commented Tom. “The Dutch Opener continued over...

Many coulter options were tried before selecting the Dutch Openers. On the left is a 1in bean coulter which is just starting to show signs of wear beside a brand new equivalent and on the right is the equivalent Duet coulter with a 1in opener.

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