High Roller: The Dal.Bo Maxiroller
It is common knowledge and practice to use a roller after pugging or seeding to tighten up the seedbed, not only benefiting the seed sown but also creating a smooth finish, particularly for permanent pasture.
This Dal.Bo maxiroller has a wide 6.3m working width, going one step further with the addition of a Hatzenbichler 16-outlet air seeder. The Dal.Bo/Hatzenbichler combination (try saying that 10 times!) gives large scale farmers and contractors the ability to plant grass and brassica crops, with the added convenience of doing
two jobs at once.
The other benefit to both the contractor and the client is that the machine can be placed straight into ploughed ground, with very convincing results that reduce bashing the soil structure (as can happen with a power harrow), thus allowing for higher yields.
This month, we head to the mighty Manawatu (or bucket-head country), although after the Rugby World Cup, I think they have probably embraced the name Cruden country. Either way you dress it up, the soil remains of the heavy clay variety, and given the weather the country has been experiencing lately, it doesn't make for good drilling conditions. However, we pressed on, and with surprising results, primarily thanks to the performance of the roller.
Located just outside of Palmerston North in the Longburn area, KP Contracting runs a medium to large scale contracting business, with eight tractors and two combines covering everything from balage and hay along with a full range of cultivation services and crop harvesting.
A recently acquired piece of machinery for the company was the Dal.Bo maxiroller and seeder combination, planting mainly grass, turnips and chicory, and being supplied by the team at Transag Centre in Palmerston North.
Origin Agroup imports both the individual machines that make up this unit as well as manufacturing the mounting brackets and the loading/standing area at the rear of the drill, allowing for easy loading of the hopper. As they are two different machines working together, I will go through the key features for both with a verdict at the end on the combination' benefits.
Dal.Bo is originally a Dutch company, but it now services majority of Europe with additional sites in the United Kingdom and Poland. Manufacturing a variety of tillage equipment, including large off-set discs, disc harrow combinations and stubble incorporators, the company has recently redesigned its maxiroller, creating a sleeker, more refined chassis that retains the strength of the old model but allows for more compact folding. This facilitates the 6.3m working width to be folded to just 2.5m for transport, allowing contractors to forget the hazard panels and avoid having the rule book thrown at them by highway patrol. In conjunction to this, the low horsepower requirements of the machine allow for a compact road unit, where standard lighting is sufficient.
Quite possibly, the best feature about the maxiroller is its unique weight transfer system. Dal.Bo calls this the Duo-Flex system, where the operator has a large pressure dial in clear view from the cab. From here, the desired pressure can be distributed to the wings. Exactly one third of the hydraulic pressure is dispersed over each of the three sections.
"But what about contour following?" I hear you say. Well this is covered by gas accumulators that allow oil to flow in and out of each ram, depending on where the hump of the hollow is. Once back on flat ground, it evens itself out again. The other way the roller achieves the contour following characteristics is with the Cambridge rings that are tight on the shaft. However, the breaker rings have a much larger centre hole, allowing them to move with the ground much easier than on a rigid design.
The roller is mounted in three sections: one mid section mounted to the transport wheels and two wings. The wings are first lifted out of the transport locks before the large down-pressure rams unfold them. The transport wheels are then folded back, allowing the rollers and the cracker boards to lean forward into the working position. The larger 400/60x15.3 transport tyres are fitted as standard on all machines, implemented in New Zealand for deceased soil compaction.
Cracker levelling boards
Unfortunately, during this particular test we couldn't use the front cracker boards due to the soil being so sticky -it just would have caused it to clump. However, I have seen these work exceptionally well on another occasion, going straight into ploughed ground. Looking at it, you would never guess that the paddock has not been power harrowed: the same finish can be achieved as when using a packer roller, but without the soil structure damage of the tynes.
The cracker board is made up of 12 heavy-duty spring tynes on the wings and 10 in the middle section. As these move through the ground, they create a shaking motion as well as a grading effect, helping to break-up clumps to create a nice, fluffy seedbed for the seed to be applied before the roller. The board works on a parallelogram-type system where, instead of lifting straight up and down, it creates more of a gliding motion by leaning forward thus making for a smoother finish.
Fluted 55cm Cambridge rings were specified on this particular machine, but three-ring options are available depending on your soil type. Intermediate floating breaker rings are then placed in between each Cambridge ring, minimising the risk ofroller blocking in wet soil conditions, something which is very common on standard Cambridge rings.
When we first turned up to the paddock, it was very sticky; a light, overnight shower was enough to make it so tacky to cake your boots. However, I was very impressed with how the roller managed to stay clean without the use of scrapers.
Hatzenbichler air seeder
Hatzenbichler is an Austrian-based company, and, like Dal.Bo, it is a tillage machinery company. However, it is more in the drilling market, with precision air drills being one of their key products. Based on their brochure, you would suspect that they build machines in a backyard shed and print specifications from their home computer.
However, the website is much better planned out: the home page displays a full-screen image of half-naked models in a maize field, advertising the company's 2012 calendar. The rest of the site was nothing like this, but that alone will get you on the page.
Once you see the machine, it doesn't resemble something built in the backyard shed, nor is it a half-naked model. But if it was, I would suspect it would be Dave Donnelly's best seller for Origin Agroup.
The test machine was fitted with the AIR 16 model from Hatzenbichler, which unlike some machines has true 16 outlets not 8 with splitters. As these machines designed to be mounted to a large range of implements comes with 50m of hose which allows the outlets to be placed optimally on any machine. The outlet itself is shaped in a semi circle so once the seed hits the plate it spreads to create greater coverage.
The AIR 16 models come standard with a 400L hopper which is the largest the company makes. This is where I felt the negative areas of the machine where centred. Firstly the 400litre hopper seems comparatively small when compared with the large working width of the machine. Although KP Contracting had never done massive areas where this was an issue but may be in particular parts of the country. The other small issue I had with the hopper was the narrow lid for filling. The hopper itself isn't particularly wide so a full width lid would make this job much easier and with very little modification.
The seeding is done via a sensor drive wheel at the rear of the machine. The area recording is done via a pulse which is measured from the wheel every rotation. This pulse is then transmitted to the in cab computer controller. This system works very well and is incredibly accurate the only thing I don't like about the setup is that due to the fact you don't want to lift the roller all the time every time you want the seeding to stop (at a headland for example) you need to push OK on the computer. What I think would make this more user friendly is a small switch separate from the computer which would allow you to keep you eye on the machine behind you and simply flick the switch to stop the seed, turn the headland, switch on and back into it. Apart from that little glitch, the system is very user friendly. The auto calibration, seed level sensor and the ability to store 30+ different seed types in the computer are by far the best features of the whole machine. This gives you the ability of turning up to a job, put the seed in the machine, select your pre stored setting and you are into it- best thing since sliced bread!
Toothed belts drive the seed rollers (Two seed dosage rollers, one for grass, one for small seed) give consistent seed application with no worries of belt slippage. The seed is then distributed via a hydraulic fan which is constantly running via a dump setup on the tractor. An in hopper agitator keeps the seed flowing consistently with the ability to have application rates from 800gm/Ha up to 400 Kg/Ha.
I thought both machines were well designed and with basic but effective components will last the test of time. The maxiroller was extremely effective and with the design of the rings and cracker boards has the ability to make the need for a power harrow obsolete in most cases. The ability to store seed settings and the auto calibration made the seeder extremely efficient. Due to them being individual machines they can be bought separately and adapted to your existing setup or purchase as a complete machine and let the results do the talking.
Soil doesn't stick to the rings
Front cracker boards help leave a smooth yet fluffy seedbed for the crop
Duo-flex system distributes constant weight over all parts of the roller
Narrow 2.5m transport width
Low power requirements comparative to the working width
16 seed outlets
Ability to store 30+ different seed mixtures in the computer
Narrow lid for filling with seed
Small hopper capacity
Others in class
Hubbard's Cambridge roller/ drill combo