Test: Vaderstad Rapid 300C XL
This month the Vaderstad Rapid 300C XL drill was tested to its limits and proved it can handle a variety of conditions, confirming its status as a top all-rounder.
As seed drills incorporate more technology, the initial outlay and operating costs increase too. With most new drills now featuring a six-figure price tag, most keen operators are looking for ways to get the most out of their drill while minimising the on-going costs. In recent times air seeders and triple disc drills have stolen the limelight, but with many people finding on-going costs to be prohibitively expensive, it's definitely time to shed a bit of light on what else is out there.
Väderstad Rapid 300C XL has been designed in Europe primarily as an arable drill. It uses a low slung hopper and a precise Väderstad metering unit to drop the seed straight to the single disc coulters. As I found out, the simple, straightforward nature of this drill makes it incredibly versatile and is capable of conventional, minimal till or direct drilling. Väderstad also has an excellent reputation in Europe for designing high quality tillage and drilling equipment.
The opportunity to test a drill in a variety of conditions in the Waikato doesn't come up all too often so I headed over to Tahuna to catch up with Jason Voschezang, of Norwood Farm Machinery Centre Morrinsville, who was demonstrating the drill to Tony Hart. Hart is the owner of Hartland Ag, operating across the Hauraki Plains and North Waikato, running a fleet of John Deere tractors and two John Deere choppers to provide a wide range of contracting services to clients.
First up was sowing Betagraze in what I'll politely describe as somewhat unfavourable conditions. The paddock had a scattering of rocks and had been sprayed and ripped. In my opinion, these conditions were tougher than most machines would have to face even when direct drilling — and given the drill was still in one piece when we finished, it handled conditions that could have quite easily destroyed some other drills rather well.
Next, the drill was given a reprieve from the tough conditions and it started on a couple of hectares of cultivated ground that needed to be sown down again into Betagraze. The ground had been power harrowed to leave a fine level seedbed, which the drill was at home in. It was rather damp down in one corner and I was watching to see how the packer wheels on the back would go, but no problems at all with clogging, and the tine harrows on the back finished the job nicely.
Later in the day we headed around to another property to direct drill some chicory into a paddock of pasture. I'm happy to admit I was sceptical of this single disc set setup and how well it would penetrate the ground (especially when direct drilling), although with around 150kg of downward pressure on each disc there was no need to worry — they sliced into the ground with ease.
Väderstad has used a single scalloped 410mm diameter hardened steel disc on each coulter, spaced 125mm apart and mounted in two rows on rubber blocks to minimise the shocks on rough ground. They also run three degrees off parallel to help them cut into the ground. Scrapers on the discs and a slim adjustable seed boot helps keep the drill operating in less than ideal ground conditions while ensuring the seed is placed in the furrow cut by the disc .
Coulters are linked in pairs to the press wheels on the back for depth control and allow for around 150mm of vertical movement to clear obstructions. While this system works relatively well, it doesn't offer the massive clearances parallel linkage coulters do, or the precise depth control and consolidation that comes with individual press wheels.
In front of the seed coulters a separate independent row of 12 coulters is used when drilling fertiliser. They are set up to each run between two seed coulters and use exactly the same setup, except their height is manually adjustable with two screw adjusters at the front. Although we weren't drilling fertiliser on the test day, I did get to see them in action for another use — to help level and create a seedbed in this minimum till situation.
Packer tyres and tine harrow
Twelve 7.00 – 15 packer wheels are staggered in two rows behind the coulters to prevent clogging in adverse conditions and feature adjustable scrapers. These packer wheels take care of three separate functions on the drill.
Firstly, when drilling, each wheel will hopefully close two disc furrows and consolidate the seedbed to ensure adequate soil-to-seed contact and prevent the ground drying out.
Secondly, as mentioned earlier, each press wheel is linked to two coulters and controls the depth of the coulter discs via a hydraulic ram on the frame and the control box in the cab. A scale and indicator on the front of the drill shows the depth when in the ground. The final function of the press wheels is a half-height lift for turning on the headlands or a full-height lift for transport. Changing the press wheels is simple should you get a puncture — with the weight on the discs and the wheels off the ground a few bolts are loosened off and the wheel drops out.
Behind the press wheels is a row of 25 covering tines to level out any ridges left. The height and pressure of these are adjustable. Cleverly these tines will fold back under themselves if the drill backs up, without damaging them and then right themselves when the drill moves forward.
The main hopper on the drill has a capacity of 3100 litres and is divided into a fertiliser compartment in the front and a seed compartment in the back, with separate metering units for each. A stand-out feature adding to the versatility of the machine is that the steel dividing wall between the two compartments is adjustable, with a rubber seal around the edge to prevent any contamination between compartments. This allows the capacities of the fertiliser and seed compartments to be altered depending on the products being carried, and the rates they are being drilled at. The adjustable bulkhead can also be moved fully forwards to enable the full capacity of the hopper to be utilised for seed only operations.
The shape of the hopper is steep enough to keep most seeds and fertilisers flowing and an agitator in the bottom should prevent bridging. One minor drawback is that the hopper is quite deep and it is impossible to reach into the bottom while standing on the platform on the back. A broom will come in handy here when drilling out the last of the seed or emptying the box. A loading height under two metres is great and the drill could easily be loaded with bulk bags from the side.
In the bottom of the seed hopper is a sensor to prevent operators running out of seed unnoticed. Although when drilling grass and other smaller seeds, it is situated a little too high and will tell you the box is empty when there are still a couple of bags of seed left in the bottom.
An optional small-seeds box on the back of the drill is excellent for New Zealand conditions and we got to use this drilling chicory. It uses exactly the same set up of metering units and calibration as the main box. The small seed box also has the option of broadcasting seed or slug bait behind the coulters, which will come in handy in certain situations.
Seed metering and calibration
The seed metering units are mechanically driven from a land wheel on the right-hand side of the drill. It's great to see there is a brake to stop the wheel turning the moment the drill is lifted out of the ground, preventing seed wastage on the headlands. The land wheel needs to be lifted up manually for transport to keep it out of harm's way. A trap for inexperienced operators is that when its down, it's the widest part of the drill and could be caught in fences and gateways.
Gearboxes on the side of the drill are used to calibrate the drill and drive the individual metering units via a hexagonal shaft. The seed metering wheels are split into sections for large and small seeds, while the angled seed cups on the metering wheels will limit pulsing and increase the accuracy of the seed placement.
Calibration of the drill has been made quick and simple by Vaderstad. Two steel collection trays stored in the seed hopper are placed under the metering units and a lever on the side of the drill diverts the seed out of the coulter tubes and into the collection tray. The handle on the side of the drill only needs turning 19 times to give a fast and accurate calibration. Seed is weighed with a bag and a scale that comes with the drill, and the rate can then be adjusted easily on the gearbox.
The Väderstad Rapid offers a simple and straightforward drill setup that operators will appreciate. When there's seed in the box and the drill is in the ground going forward, it's working. There's no need to worry about air flow or metering problems. Lower maintenance requirements and costs will also appeal to almost everyone out there.
Overall, this test was a pretty tough ask for any drill, as there were three very different situations and quite tough conditions, however I think the Väderstad handled it well on the day. It could be argued that in each situation there is a drill setup that might do the job at hand slightly better but as an all-rounder the Väderstad ranks right up there with the best.
- Versatile single disc coulter will achieve good results in a variety of conditions
- Fast, easy and accurate calibration that only requires 19 turns of the handle
- Size-adjustable seed and fertiliser compartments in the main hopper
- Low on-going maintenance and costs due to only one disc in contact with the ground
- Simple, straightforward, easy-to-use control box
- Braked land wheel
- Coulter travel of 150mm is adequate but less than many other disc drills
- Lack of precise individual depth control and consolidation
- The depth of the hopper makes it difficult to reach the bottom when standing on the platform
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