In normal weather and with normal soil conditions, a tillage demonstration in early March wouldn’t have posed any problems. This year, as everyone knows, was different. When Derek Delahunty and his colleagues in Lemken decided to hold a demonstration of their equipment in Carlow in early March, they hardly anticipated that all fieldwork would be rendered impossible by the ongoing rain that hampered all field operations in the spring of 2018, writes Matt O’Keeffe.
As it turned out, Derek and co. went ahead with a static machinery display at Tinryland GAA grounds with a big farmer attendance to view the array of machines that Lemken had assembled. There have been huge changes in how tillage operations are carried out, as Derek explained: “It’s been our experience that semi-mounted ploughs are increasing in popularity. Those include seven and eight-furrow units that can get through a lot of ground in a hurry.” Justifying the investment involved in equipping a farm with these large-scale machines is a question often asked: “There are significant savings to be made from larger units. Labour, for instance, is both scarce and expensive. Reducing labour requirements on a tillage farm can deliver real cost savings and larger machines mean that the work output doesn’t suffer. There are greater demands on operators to get through more work, more quickly. We are finding that this is leading to tillage operators kitting themselves out with bigger output machines.”
Back to the future
There was a time when disc harrows were the most common tool for tilling ground. It’s a case of back to the future, according to Derek: “When ground turns up wet, it can dry out hard and ‘slabby’. Operators need machines to break up that ground and many of them are turning to the well tested disc harrow technology to get the ground ready for sowing. That allows you to move in faster than with a power harrow, for instance. Scale still holds with the new disc units. Five and six-metre harrows are popular, and the new disc harrows are a refined machine compared to their previous counterparts.”
Investing in hard times
With grain prices on the floor for four years, it must be difficult to justify the investment required to renew tillage equipment on farms. Not so, says Derek: “Farmers have their budgets set out. They realise they can’t run their machines into the ground. It’s often cheaper to regularly upgrade than be faced with the prospect of facing huge investment at one time and also experiencing high wear and tear and service costs if machinery is let run down.”
A field-based weather monitor
Field-based weather stations are a novel introduction by Lemken. The Irish sales manager says that it is all part of Lemken’s weather protection programme: “The challenge in Germany was for R&D personnel to examine what would bring real value to their customers in terms of increasing crop protection efficiencies. Its introduction in Ireland will be a real boost, where spraying opportunities can be scarce. The technology involves a weather station in the field that measures soil temperatures at crop height on an ongoing basis. It also monitors air temperatures and wind velocities. Most importantly, the weather station can extrapolate disease pressure from the data and deliver that information back to the farmer’s phone. There is even advice on the best times to spray to maximise spray efficiency taking the likes of wind, sunlight and moisture levels into account. That can reduce leaf burn, run-off and potential spray drift. It’s another piece of technology to go with automatic boom and nozzle shut-off to deliver both savings and efficiency in spray operations.”