The Espro range of seed drills from Kuhn was originally launched four years ago. After several upgrades the latest model is now touring Ireland for the first time, giving demonstrations on both cultivated ground and stubble.
Getting a good start in life is essential for any crop if it is to succeed, and Kuhn’s approach to getting the seed in the ground and growing away, is exemplified in the Espro 4000 RC.
The Espro 4000 RC
This model is a trailed drill that is intended to work directly into stubble, but it is equally happy on ploughed soil, as was being shown on the day.
It has a working width of 4m as denoted by the 4000 in its name, while the R indicates that it is a folding model and C that it is combined i.e. it can sow fertiliser alongside the seed.
The hopper is divided 60%:40%, and a slide at the base of the rear section may be removed to enable the whole space to be used for seed if desired.
The two metering units are easily accessible and feed the grains into an airflow provided by a hydraulically-driven fan.
Calibration is also relatively easy with the ISOBUS compatible control unit automatically adjusting the feed rate once a trial sample has been weighed and entered into the system.
A sensible head
The drill has its own ground speed radar to further enhance accuracy. The distribution head has seed blocking sensors to ensure no rows are missed.
For higher seeding or fertiliser rates, a second distribution head can be fitted which will allow up to 500kg/ha of material to be sown if required e.g. when planting a spring crop with high fertiliser rates.
The drill comes with half width shut off and asymmetrical tramlining as standard to enable a full range of tramline widths to be catered for.
A rear view camera and work lights are also fitted to the head.
Section control is available as an option, although Kuhn sees less demand for this feature on drills than it does on fertiliser spreaders and sprayers. However, the company does note a growing reliance on auto steering for the drilling operation.
One major aim in designing the machine was the reduction of the draught requirement in a bid to improve fuel consumption.
Two features which are claimed to reduce power requirement are larger diameter packer wheels with less rolling resistance.
Mounting these in pairs, and offsetting each pair by 200mm, is also said to eliminate the bulldozing effect.
Leading the cultivating stages of this example from the Espro range was a row of levelling wheels which consolidate and level the ground ahead of the discs.
This produces a firm and consistent surface for the discs to engage with. Paddles or wheel tract eliminators may be specified instead.
The discs themselves are 460mm in diameter. They are mounted in pairs which helps reduce weight and improves the flow of residue and soil, according to Kuhn.
Following the discs is a set of press wheels, each of which consolidates the soil ahead of two coulters.
This arrangement means that each seed is placed precisely into a consolidated bed rather than a loose layer of soil.
The tyre profile is perfectly square which ensures that consolidation is uniform across its width, while the deep tread is said to crumble the soil and create a finer tilth.
For transport, the centre wheels are raised to avoid any cambers in the road which could result in instability and loss of directional control. 40% of the rubber is still in contact with the surface, spreading wear and ensuring the braked wheels are in full contact with the road.
The seed is then placed using double disc coulters. Each disc is 350mm in diameter and they are offset by 41mm.
A bevelled edge aids soil penetration and the front disc can wear down by as much as 32mm before soil clogging is likely to become an issue.
The coulters are mounted to the drill by what Kuhn calls a ‘Crossflex’ bar. This comprises a square steel tube lying at 45° within a larger one, and held in position by polyurethane blocks.
The system is similar to the suspension found in many light car trailers, although in this case Kuhn has profiled the inner bar to better seat the deformable plastic cushions and allow a greater volume of material to be utilised.
Espro drills are available in working widths of between 8m and are available with pre-emergence markers and track eliminators as optional extras.
The final finish is by press wheel which seals the slot, while a covering harrow creates a loose soil surface to limit capping.
In operation, the drill was leaving a good finish on land that had been left a little soft and fluffy by the plough and a few days of rain.
The soil was still moist but not sticky, providing excellent, open soil conditions for seedbed preparation.
A Massey Ferguson 7720 was coping easily with the load, although it appeared to be using a good deal of the 185hp available to keep it moving in energy sapping conditions.
The two seemed well matched; a larger tractor would have been quite unnecessary.
The latest lightweight from Kuhn
Also on show, but not working, was the new, lighter weight compact drill, which Kuhn has recently added to its Venta range of pneumatic seeders.
Available initially as the 3m Venta 320, this new 100 series machine is designed for tractors in the 120-150hp range.
It can be used in combination with the company’s 3m power harrows or a set of discs, as were fitted to the machine on display.
It has the same volumetric metering unit as the Espro. With the QS2 control unit, seed rate can be adjusted from the tractor cab. Calibrating is the performed the same way and the metering unit is accessible from the rear.
This latest addition has a spacious loading platform with foldable steps that provides secure access to the hopper from the side.
The distributor is mounted on the steel cover and folds a good distance forward to prevent damage when loading.
The hopper has a capacity of 850L as standard, with the option of extending this to 1,150L.