Wet weather has meant a tough start to the 2020-21 sowing season for many arable farmers and contractors in the Tuckwell region, but those running Väderstad Rapid drills could cover some ground quickly once the conditions dry up if they follow a few tips to get maximum workrates and accuracy out of their machines. P Tuckwell demonstrator Ben Cave provides some advice on drill servicing and set-up.
With the ability to carry out seedbed preparation, levelling, drilling and consolidation with the press wheels at the rear of the machine, the Rapid is a very universal drill capable of very high workrates with reliable seed metering and highly accurate seed placement. Following a few pointers can help make the most of the machine’s capabilities in the shortening winter crop weather window.
Starting at the front of the drill, the Rapid can be specced with a range of toolbars to suit individual farm needs and soil types. These comprise the Crossboard Heavy, System Agrilla, System Disc and System Disc Aggressive. By removing the crossboard it is possible to add a third row of coulters, with the staggered arrangement resulting in improved trash flow in high trash conditions.
One of the key features of the coulter and disc is its cultivating ability, adding further intensity to the soil preparation capabilities of the drill that begin with its front tools. Coulters are connected to the rear wheels of the drill via a parallel linkage, enabling the Rapid to follow ground contours whilst still achieving an even drilling depth.
To the rear, the Rapid’s large, wide packer wheels provide precision reconsolidation after seed placement. By putting pressure in the correct spot this ensures good seed to soil contact, each tyre pressing two rows of seed.
Every second packer wheel is displaced 190mm rearwards on a separate axle, which improves performance in wetter conditions, improving establishment and crop performance. Behind the tyre press wheels comes a following harrow which should be set to give a nice even finish, and remove any smear left from the tyre packer if conditions are slightly less favourable.
Current Rapid models can still be operated using the established Väderstad control terminal, but management is also possible using Väderstad E-Control. This iPad-based system wirelessly connects to the drill, enabling full access to its functions and data and allowing the operator to calibrate the drill from outside the cab, as the iPad is fully portable. It can also be used with any Väderstad drill.
With Väderstad SeedEye it is now possible to set the seed rate by seeds per square metre. In the field, sensors accurately record the number of seeds passing through each individual tube. By combining this information with forward speed via the radar mounted on the drill, the Rapid can then automatically maintain the selected seed rate.
Maintenance: bearings and frame
The same bearings are used for the System Disc and seed disc hubs, simplifying parts availability and fitment. Early models incorporated a grease nipple, requiring one pump per season. Later models are sealed for life.
Give the discs a wriggle to check for play – if non-genuine parts have been used this could allow bearings to come loose in the hubs, while genuine parts will retain the assembly. Frame cracking is virtually non-existent, although pin and bush wear can be an issue on folding elements. With the drill opened up, check for wing sagging – if the machine is reasonably level from side to side the pins and bushes will be ok
Maintenance: coulters and press wheels
Coulters are adjustable in relation to the seed disc, and they should not protrude below the disc. Press wheel to drill coulter relationship – and therefore seed placement depth – is managed using a series of interconnecting black rods which link the first disc to the second, and its corresponding press wheel. These rods and their bushings are a wear item, and replacement pieces can be fitted or – with press wheel mountings – can be welded onto the drill. If your drill or a potential drill you are looking to buy has 4-6,000 hectares on it, there is a good chance they will need replacing.
Take time to inspect each press wheel and check for excess movement in its mounting assembly. Free play here is likely to be with the press wheel fork, which may need re-bushing or its bearings replacing. Likewise with the following harrow, wear at linkage points is inevitable.
Maintenance: metering unit and hydraulics
The Fenix seed metering unit – there will be two of them on 6m and 8m models – uses a rubber seal in the plastic concave which sits beneath the metering roller. Mice love to chew these, so make sure to check the condition and wear of the metering units, and replace parts as necessary to maintain accuracy. Also check for cracked/crushed air pipes as these will result in lost air pressure or blockages.
Ram seals and hydraulic valves should also be checked for leaks, as should the fan motor. If the drill is used on a tractor with any restrictions to its free-flow return, this can pressurise the fan motor and new seals may then be needed.
Don’t forget: the better you look after your drill, the better it will look after you!