Test: Quivogne SOL-V 36 x 66 x 23 4.0
Discs are used to tackle some of the hardest ground in the country, so it’s no wonder you need them built tough. This month Brent Lilley tests a set of French-made Quivogne discs which he claims are as tough as a certain French loose forward.
Discs have been used for primary cultivation in New Zealand since the first Europeans arrived, with single gang giant discs being used to break in much of the farmland. Although those days are largely gone, discs still tend to be used to upturn some of the roughest ground, and because of this, discs needs to be heavy and very well built.
A trip last month led me up to Maramarua in North Waikato to see a newly commissioned set of French-built Quivogne SOL-V offset discs in action, which, at four metres wide and weighing in at over four tonnes, are a seriously tough heavyweight contender. Now, after spending way too much time trying to think up a French entity to compare these discs to, the best I could come up with was Sebastien Chabal, the tough, hard-hitting French rugby player, with his infamous beard and long hair, who has punished a few All Blacks in the past. Hopefully you've well and truly got my point.
The Quivogne discs were purchased about a week before I tested them and have pretty much worked flat out since their arrival, preparing the ground for maize planting. The new owner of the discs is Wattle Contracting, operating out of Te Kauwhata and offering a full range of contracting services to farmers across the North Waikato area. It purchased the discs to help tackle its ever-increasing workload more efficiently.
Design and construction
The discs use a single metal beam of 250mm and 10mm thick that run the length of box section to form the backbone of the discs, which everything is then mounted to. The advantage of the single beam, over multiple beams in the frame, is the impressive rear visibility for the operator from the tractor. Most discs are largely configured into one of two setups. The first uses four gangs of discs arranged in an X-shape and the second has the discs arranged in two gangs in a sideways V-shape, referred to as offset discs — the latter being the model I tested, although Quivogne builds both types.
A design feature I believe is breaking the mould is the rows of discs at the front and back of the machine, which are actually made up of two gangs of discs mounted to a subframe with a single heavy-duty pivot point, rather than the single gang common on many other makes.
The advantage of this is that the gangs on each side fold roughly 90 degrees from their working positions to give the discs an impressive transport width of around 2.5 metres. A catch on the subframe takes any pressure off the hydraulic folding rams when the discs are in their working position.
Some of you out there might now be wondering how the angle of cut is adjusted with this setup. The subframe for each row of discs is mounted to the main beam with an even larger heavy-duty pivot point. A hydraulic ram is used to adjust the angle of cut on the discs and a linkage rod from the front row to the back row keeps them matched at opposing angles. A scale at the front that can be seen from the cab makes it easy to set the cut in the correct position. Overall, I think this is a very good setup that maximises the working width while keeping to a manageable transport width, although a pit fall is that it requires two separate hydraulic functions which will require getting out and turning a tap, where other makes usually take care of this with one.
In the middle of the main frame, between the rows of discs, are the transport wheels, which feature 445/45R 19.5 Michelin tyre and drum brakes in the hubs, although not hooked up on the machine I tested. A hydraulic ram lowers the wheels down from the main frame, which in turn lifts the discs out of the ground. Although not on the discs I tested, there are optional rings that can be fitted to the lifting cylinder for those using the discs on soft ground that want the wheels down a little when operating to take some of the weight. At the back of the machine a mounting plate had a drawbar and road lights fixed to it, although Quivogne has a rear crumbler roller that can be attached to aid cultivation.
The discs used are 660mm in diameter and should prove more adequate in most situations, whether on full-cut for primary cultivation or lesser-cut for a second pass. Having scalloped discs on the front and back will help the discs cut into the ground regardless of the conditions or trash laying on the surface. Discs are arranged in two gangs of 18 discs, which give a theoretical disc spacing of 230mm, although depending on the angle of cut, each disc will be taking less of a bite than this. With an overall weight over 4000kg, there is close to 120kg of weight on every disc, making sure they cut-in under all conditions.
Each gang of discs run on a solid 40mm square shaft and uses three large, triple-sealed, waterproof double-tapered roller bearing assemblies on each gang. As bearings on discs tend to lead a pretty tough life under pressure in sometimes-wet and always-abrasive conditions, I was pleased to see these discs use one of the largest bearings out of most competitors. Thin yet sturdy bearing carriers are used to mount the bearings to the frame and take the weight while minimising blockages in trashy conditions.
On these discs, and pretty standard on most these days, is a front-to-back levelling hydraulic ram that adjusts the level (from the front to the back) of the discs. Opinions tend to be divided as to whether it should be fixed or used in float, although in my experience this will largely depend on the situations in which the discs are being used. On test day, the machine was on relatively flat ground and was being used in a fixed position. The large adjustable spring incorporated in the linkage for the level allows the discs to somewhat ride over humps and through hollows and the discs did ride out of the ground through a small rut. In undulating conditions, it may be better to use them in float.
One of the biggest downfalls of any V-shaped offset discs can be that as the front gangs cut into the harder ground they pull at a skewed angle that causes the back gangs to not run in the correct position, leaving a furrow or a ridge to one side. Not the case with the Quivogne discs. The manufacturer has incorporated a hydraulic ram into the drawbar that can be used to adjust the towing angle and keep the discs running square. This hydraulic drawbar can also come in fairly handy when negotiating the tractor and discs through tight gateways.
One of my few complaints with these discs, and some may think I'm being a little picky, is the fact neither the level nor the drawbar rams feature a scale. This can make it difficult for some operators to get the discs set up in the correct position.
As I've mentioned a few times now, these discs are incredibly well-built and solid. The gross weight over four tonnes will be a huge advantage in most situations. These Quivogne discs proved more than capable and the driver who had used them for the previous week had nothing but praise for the discs. Stand-out features for me are the separate folding gangs that give a transport width of 2.5 metres, the excellent operator visibility and the overall solid design. Hydraulic adjustment over the discs gives great control and is excellent to see, although, because there are five separate functions, most people are going to require taps to be changed — a slight hindrance. The four-metre working width will appeal to those with a decent amount of ground to cover, but Quivogne also offers a couple of smaller models as well.
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