With a strong line-up of cultivation equipment, Opico has complimented this with the addition of cultivator and direct drills. James Rickard reports.
Eagle-eyed visitors to the 2013 Sima show may have noticed a newcomer on the seed drill market. Sporting a bright green livery, that company was French firm Sky Agriculture, of which two of its flagship products are now available in the UK through importer Opico.
Machines in question are its Maxi Drill cultivator drill and the Easy Drill direct drill. Interestingly, Sky Agriculture, although only a young company, is a sister company to long-established Sulky, however, they only share manufacturing facilities, with separate management, sales teams and distribution outlets.
For Opico, the new machines compliment its range of He-Va cultivation equipment and fill a gap in the firm’s portfolio which has been sought after by dealers and customers.
In its short three years as a company, Sky Agriculture already has more than 2,500 machines out working, predominantly in Western Europe, but also in parts of Canada.
Coinciding with Opico’s golden anniversary, official UK public debut of the new machines will be at the 2016 Lamma show, with full availability from now.
Pitched as a versatile drill able to drill multiple types of crops into various conditions, the Easy Drill direct disc drill range is made up of eight models; 3m and 4m working width rigid box drills, and 4m and 6m trailed, folding air drills.
All drills can be specified with twin hoppers allowing two types of crop or seed and fertiliser to be applied. In addition, a third hopper for micro-granules or slug pellets, for example, can be fitted.
Following a press roller upfront, each seeding element comprises a single disc, behind which is a skim coulter. Following this is another adjustable seed/fert tube, with a chamfered press wheel to seal and consolidate the seed slot.
Sky Agriculture says the benefits of having a press roller up front help to prepare the seed bed, by giving the discs something to ‘bite’ into, particularly when drilling into already worked seed beds. It also helps when direct drilling into cover crops by flattening out the cover crop.
Designed to create as little disturbance as possible and not encourage weed seeds to germinate, each disc is angled to 3.5 degrees and leant over by 1.5 degrees.
Into the slot created by the disc is positioned a skim coulter which also doubles up as a disc scraper and can be depth adjusted to position seeds where you want, particularly in relation to a second seed or fertiliser which can be placed by a second seed tube.
This second seed drop position is adjusted by moving the tube backwards or forwards; the closer you get it to the disc and the freshly opened slot, the deeper a second seed or fertiliser can be placed. Conversely, the closer you position this second seed tube to the consolidation wheel, the shallower the seed will be positioned, to the point of being on the surface.
Seeding units are mounted in pairs on an arm, with the rear consolidation wheels connected in pairs via a balance beam to create a bogie which is able to follow contours.
Overall disc depth is based on their position in relation to the front press roller. Weight can also be transferred from the discs to the front roller via a hydraulic ram. Up to 250kg of coulter pressure can be applied by each disc.
While it is predominantly aimed at direct drilling, the manufacturer says it is also compatible with plough-based and min-till systems.
Depending on circumstances, the manufacturer recommends a drilling speed of up to 8kph when direct drilling, keeping soil disturbance to a minimum. In instances where you are drilling into a prepared seedbed where the soil has already been disturbed, working speeds can be increased to about 12kph.
With three hoppers and two separate air flows, various seeding combinations can be achieved. Using separate hoppers also avoids seed separation in mixed seed crops, says the manufacturer, while separate air flows avoids seed burn and blockages.
The firm’s own electrically-driven seed metering units are used which can handle wheat seed rates from 1kg/ha up to 450kg/ha, without having to change seed metering rollers.
An electrically managed distribution head also allows half width shut off, the ability seed every other row, or plant a different product every third row – useful for mixed seed cover crops or companion planting.
It might look like another cultivator drill, but Opico reckons the Maxi Drill has plenty of unique selling points which will help it to compete with the current crop of drills.
Not least of all, the manufacturer says because of the drill’s ‘spacious’ component layout, it can run a lot later into the season in difficult conditions and start again sooner in spring. This has been facilitated by designing the machine so that there is plenty of space between all the drill’s elements - two gangs of discs, press roller and two rows of disc coulters - which allows soil to settle in between each tool.
Opico reckons a two week extension to the drilling season is possible with this drill, eliminating the need to park it up and get the power harrow combi-drill out.
Six trailed models make up the all air drill Maxi Drill range, which includes models from 3m wide up to 6m. Each can be specified as single or twin hopper, and like the Easy Drill, an extra hopper can be added.
Another interesting feature of the drill, for the top four models only, is the use of a dedicated transport axle, rather than relying on the press wheels. Sky Agriculture says this allows the ideal selection of press tyres to be chosen and the ideal pressures to be used, which also gives enough flex for self cleaning.
Press wheels are mounted on arms in pairs and staggered. This, says the firm, reduces that bulldosing effect of the soil, requiring less power to pull.
Maintenance of the press wheels has also been thought about, with the ability to get at wheels thanks to mounting arms which can be unbolted and swung out, which can be done when the machine is folded up.
Similar to the Easy Drill, the Maxi Drill gets the same adjustable, multi seed depth concept.
Two rows of disc coulters are mounted on two separate bars to achieve equal coulter pressure. Up to 120kg coulter pressure can be applied, allowing it to work as a direct drill. Drilling speeds can be up to 18kph.