Test: Taege 6m cultivator
The new Taege cultivator hopes to woo farmers with its robust design, which has adopted many features found on Taege’s popular seed drills, but also possesses a number of clever features of its own.
A stroke of genius (and I've had many) came to me as I was driving my rental car to a farm machinery test in Canterbury. I was driving a 238km-old 'new' Holden SV6, which from the outset I would have sworn was a Cruize due to the smaller appearance. So my clever idea was thus — should you be in the market for a new car (which I am not, contrary to my wife's beliefs) then hiring a car could be an excellent way for potential buyers to enjoy an extended test drive without all the salesman flannel. The same can be said about making a decision on farm machines and can often be more useful than a pamphlet and a sales spiel — hence the reason we at Farm Trader do what we do and test farm machinery on your behalf. There you go.
So this month I'm once again visiting Taege Engineering. If you haven't heard what's been going on at Taege during the past couple of years, there can only be two reasons for this: 1) You have been out of the country the entire time, or 2) you have been in the country but haven't been reading Farm Trader magazine. If you identified with the latter, you should be ashamed of yourself, given this is the only remaining crime in New Zealand which is punishable by stoning. Luckily you have found this out by reading this article in Farm Trader, which means you're back on the horse. Welcome.
We all know Taege has enjoyed a period of sales success with its seed drills and for a number of good reasons, they are very hard-wearing, basic, built like the proverbial outhouse and 'cheap' given the features included as standard.
This month, however, I am running my keen eye for detail over Taege's new 6m cultivator.
Now, as an old saying reinvented goes, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it', which Taege has adopted to some degree with the cultivator. It's basically taken the best bits from its seeds drills, including the heavy-duty 'S' tine mounted on the angle, and tweaked a few features in order to create a very effective cultivation machine.
Key design features
Tilted tines: There are a number of key features so I'll start with the ability of the tines to bite in with no down-force applied. This is achieved by tilting the box section forward where the tine is mounted from. This does two things — firstly, it penetrates into the soil as the spring tine has no other option but to move downwards, and secondly, because the tip is on an angle, it shatters the ground to create a nice fluffy seed bed. Another advantage of the tilted tine is it allows the tip to follow the contour better as it essentially folds back or tracks around stones and humps and hollows, rather than ploughing straight into it, which is the case with straight-mounted machines. The other key advantage about the tine angle is that none of the tines can get out of line, which is an issue when bolted squarely onto the box section.
Contour following: Contour following is the next key advantage. Again, through the tilting of the 'S' tine and it's flexibility, this allows approximately 200mm of travel from one tine to the next. Hydraulically controlled lifting on all four wheels gives you easy depth control with the ram spacers. The ram spacers have also been manufactured (despite the different size tyres) so the same number of shims can be added or taken away which makes life simple. The wing rams are slot mounted to allow for increased contour following again without the need for hydraulic down pressure which would evidently make the machine rigid. When raising and lowering the machine a boomerang type device has been engineered to take up the give in the slot so the wings aren't slamming against the end of the ram which reduces overall stress on the machine.
The last point, and arguably the most important for a machine like this, is trash clearance. Often these machines are used either straight into old sprayed-out pasture where sod build-up can be an issue or re-cultivating ground after crops, in which case crop build-up can be a nightmare for any machine no matter how expensive it is. This machine allows the trash to flow through smoothly again, tied into the angle and flexibility of the tine. As the tines work their way through the ground they create a shaking effect, like a fish swimming. As all 49 tines on the 6m version are wiggling their way through the ground, any trash that is built-up is vibrated off and makes its way out the back and through the tine harrows, which I will expand on soon.
Tines and tips
As I mentioned, there are 49 tines on the machine which have been spaced at 121mm both for soil movement and trash clearing characteristics, but in addition to this there is an assortment of tips available. The test machine we used was fitted with nihard cast points however, the Taege tungsten tip, a 125mm (4") sweep, or a maxitill chisel point are also available. You can also vary the tips, so for example you can run the nihard points on the front two rows and then the 4" sweep tips on the rear to create even greater soil movement. I found during the test that three passes are about the optimum in either trashy or clean soil — anything over this and you are just wasting time and diesel.
The jury is still out on whether hot dipped galvanising looks as good as the good old two-pack paint but you can't deny the longevity of the stuff, and given machinery is an investment it will save you in the long run. The Taege philosophy is to build it simple with very little moving parts, reducing downtime, repairs and maintenance with the cultivator being no different. Throughout Taege's success with the drills, the company naturally progressed into air seeding direction and cultivators with almost a 50/50 split in customer demands. This machine came first, so it must have been more like 60/40 in favour of the cultivator, but as always Taege is keeping customers happy by allowing space on the cultivator to mount a seed box with air running gear. The tines in front of the transport wheels even have extra slots where the tines can be mounted forward, still leaving enough room for a double shoot dropper.
For transport the wings of the cultivator fold up to give a very comfortable 2.8m transport width, which means no flags and hazard panels, and additionally the outside contour wheels can be folded up to help keep the weight of the wings towards the centre, rather than trying to flop out.
The machine is fitted with an adjustable front drawbar for easy levelling on any tractor, which also has a grate, not only adding strength but very little overall weight and makes for a good place for storing a chain and a few bits and bobs within full view of the driver — although over rough terrain this may not be one of your better ideas and you could watch the scattering effect off the tines as your chain gets tangled amongst them!
For those already running a Taege drill or that have seen one working, the ones mounted on the back of the cultivator work in exactly the same way but are just slightly beefier. From a bird's eye view, the tine harrows look like the tread on a tractor tyre where they are facing the opposite direction to each other. This feature creates more of a grading motion rather than aggressive scuffing, which the tines have already done. The major benefit of this mounted system is that they lift when the machine is lifted, allowing the cultivator to be backed into corners and around water troughs, power poles etc.
There are several mounting points so you can vary the down pressure of the tine harrows but essentially, of the two rows, the front row is a heavier three-coil tine — slightly stiffer and more rigid to smooth over the bumps and clod bash — while the second row has slightly more give, less resistance and produces a softer, smoother finish.
It doesn't come any hotter off the production line than when you turn up to the factory and the final welds are being put in place, and then the machine is towed to the test site, where the manufacturers place branding on the machine right there in the paddock. This is exactly what happened with the 6m roller used during our test and is the perfect combination for the tine cultivator. The specific advantage of using a tyre roller is it kneads the soil, creating a tighter seed bed for the drill to follow with. The Taege tyre roller has a bogey axle setup with offset spacing so you don't get a bow wave effect from a single-beam standard tyre roller. Because the roller is made from car tyres and with the bogey axle for suspension, it travels along the road at very well high speed (which we did test behind the Land Cruiser). Also, as it has been designed with the cultivator in mind, the turning circle for a 6m cultivator, tine harrow and roller is very impressive.
You often hear people say 'don't judge a book by its cover', which certainly applies to the machines I tested here. At first glance you would swear it was some box section welded together with tines spread across and a row of car tyres behind for a roller. In essence you are right — that's exactly what it is — and that's the idea. It's that rugged simplicity that sells these machines, but hopefully I have explained some of the clever innovations included within them to show you it's not only simple but extremely effective.
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