One of the first customers of Amazone’s Cayron plough was Nottinghamshire-based J. Thomson and Partners, as it sought more output and a higher quality finish for its arable operations.
Geoff Ashcroft reports...
From Oakhouse Farms, Ranskill, Retford, James Thomson is gradually pushing the acreage of his family farming business.
In addition to land owned and rented, the Nottinghamshire grower has several share farming agreements in place, which in turn has helped re-investment in higher capacity equipment.
The farm’s trailed Amazone UX4200 sprayer, ZA-TS fertiliser spreader and New Holland CX8090 combine have been jointly purchased with brother-in-law Peter Dook of nearby Woolthwaite Farm, to enable both parties to benefit from the economy of scale.
Doing so has freed up other capital for machinery reinvestment – a prime example being the farm’s plough.
Mr Thomson explains: “We have started to put more emphasis on ploughing.
“Some is for rotational ploughing as a management tool for black-grass control, the remainder is for spring seedbed preparation and to tidy up after root crops.”
His plough of choice is an Amazone Cayron 200V fullymounted reversible, which has been rolling furrows for the family business – J. Thomson and Partners – for the last three seasons.
“For many years, we had been operating with an old five-furrow vari-width,” says Mr Thomson.
“It was a good plough, but when the time came to rethink our ploughing activities, we looked closer to home.”
That move started with a demonstration from local Amazone dealer Moore Farm Services, and with the German manufacturer’s UK base almost within striking distance, he figured parts supply, back-up and technical assistance was never going to be far away.
“I really liked the quality of job the Cayron delivered,” he says.
“It buried everything, leaving a clean, level surface. And given that we operate a few other items of Amazone machinery, it was a natural fit.
“We bought a five-furrow to begin with, as we knew we could handle it,” he says.
“But shortly afterwards, we bought a bolt-on sixth furrow. Our MF7626 had plenty in reserve, and opting for hydraulic furrow width has enabled us to tune our ploughing activities to weather conditions and soil types.
“And while I would have liked a version with hydraulic leg reset, it was an expensive luxury which added weight to the plough.”
The Cayron was Amazone’s effort at joining the UK’s heavilysubscribed plough market.
With established names such as Kverneland, Lemken, Pottinger and Kuhn, plus Hubert, Maschio and Ovlac, you could be forgiven for thinking the UK market did not need any more choice.
But with an increasingly downward spiral of chemicals, it means there will always be a place for the plough.
For dealers selling Amazone equipment, the German maker’s own plough range – now bolstered by the former Vogel & Noot version – does at least fill a gap which could have been easily occupied by another competitor plough franchise.
Cayron brought a headstock with a one-piece cross-shaft that carries pre-formed link balls.
The cross-shaft assembly is supported in roller bearings, said to allow flex and apply less stress on the tractor. It is a design which eliminates the need for link-arm balls and lynch pins.
Integrated front furrow width and plough width linkage both adjust simultaneously to ensure correct alignment, while its mouldboard design features an enlarged front shin, known as the C-blade.
This replaceable element provides a larger working area for material to travel over, and is claimed to take wear away from the mouldboard to prolong body life.
Plough points – although nonreversible – overlap with the wings, preventing debris such as string from becoming trapped in material seams.
A locking headstock prevents accidental turnover when the plough is in the butterfly position for transport, operating on its combi-depth/road wheel.
The business has 72 fields ranging in size from 2.4 hectares to 26ha, spread over 17 miles.
“The plough rides well on its combi-wheel,” says Mr Thomson.
With soil types ranging from mostly sand to an area of about 80ha of heavy clay, one strategy does not suit all.
As a result, a number of seedbed preparation strategies are followed by J. Thomson and Partners.
“We need to hit the reset button on the heavy clay every five years, to help stay on top of black grass, which makes a plough an essential part of the kit list,” he says.
“While we operate a min-till strategy for most of our combinable crops, we plough ahead of spring barley, maize and sugar beet.
“A lot of our ploughing is a tidying up process, to aerate and level seedbeds, in preparation for drilling, and rather than reach for the subsoiler and perhaps plough shallower, we choose to plough at a good depth and open up our ground.”
That ‘good depth’, on sandy soils is about 250-300mm, and with a furrow press arm fitted, the plough is always accompanied with a press, which firms the top layer ahead of the drill.
He adds that at the full 55cm furrow width, turning over 3.3m of soil at a depth of 250mm while pulling a furrow press at speeds of up to 8kph, the MF7626 has nothing in reserve.
“We have two press types – one is a Kockerling Minimat which affords one-pass plough, press and seeding,” he says.
“The other is a three-metre-wide Flexicoil double press, which we can run behind using a Cirius 4001 cultivator drill. It does such a good job that the Cirius does not need to do much other than plant seed.”
The farm’s renewed interest in ploughing has seen the area ploughed each year gradually increase to about 160-200ha each season. The trade-off has been an increase in wearing parts.
“The next lot of metal will be hard-faced,” he says. “While it will cost more, there should be less downtime from changing parts.
“Given that there is little option for after-market wearing metal, the genuine prices can be hard to swallow.”
Downtime is something he is keen to avoid, and while the plough’s quality and reliability is praised, the skimmer adjustment is an area that he says ‘needs a rethink’.
“To adjust the skimmers, I first need to remove a circular spring clip from the securing pin – they are just like the ones you find on a key ring, only bigger, and tighter,” says Mr Thomson.
“These are awkward to take out and refit and that means we tend not to adjust the skimmers when we change depth.
“Everything else on the plough is convenient, but while it does come with two spanners, it needs a long KV-type spanner so you can get good tension on the bolts.”
It is also heavily dependent on spool valves, he adds.
“This version, with hydraulic furrow width, plough turnover, hydraulic front furrow adjustment, and hydraulic release for the furrow press arm does need four spools to operate,” he says.
“If you want a hydraulic top link too, you will need a tractor with five spools.”
He says that the rest of the plough is straightforward enough, and works as you would expect, which he says is a credit to its maker for being brave enough to design and build a plough from scratch.