Test: Sumo Quatro

By: Jaiden Drought, Photography by: Justin Bennett


When it comes to primary cultivation, British-built Sumo Quatro one-pass tillage cultivator is dishing up a host of options to NZ farmers and contractors

The Sumo Quatro is a one-pass, minimum tillage cultivator, which incorporates a number of ideas, such as a level drawbar, twin-mounted discs, auto-retractable legs, and the patented Multipacka. Farm Trader’s Jaiden Drought headed south to see one in action and discover for himself if the hype is justifiably well earned.

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The Sumo Quatro is a multi-purpose tool; each lot of discs and the ripper legs can be adjusted

Sumo is the brainchild of a British company specialising in the design and manufacture of innovative machinery for the various farming systems employed across the world.

Designed and built by some of the country’s finest and most highly-skilled engineers, Sumo machines are made to last, with a longstanding reputation for supplying heavy-duty, well-made products, ranging from direct tillage seeders, to tine cultivators and one-pass seed preparation machines, including the mounted and trailed trios or the Quatro, which I was in town to take a closer look at.

While there’s no denying that these units have a reputation as a horsepower-hungry machine, that’s not necessarily a negative. Sumo dealers are forthcoming with the reputation; the guys who run these machines don’t shy away from it because along with the heavy draft requirements comes effective subsoiling and build quality to match.

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Either 3pl or drawbar towing options are available

The current trend (like rolling your skin-tight jean legs up in the hipster suburbs) is to do one-pass cultivation. Like the jean rolling, I’m not 100% convinced on the concept entirely. Given that contractors work in a variety of conditions, having one machine to do a pristine one-pass job in all of them, is, I feel, a little far-fetched.

I digress, however. Back to the task at hand where in the beautiful Mid Canterbury on a mixed vege and crop farm, the Sumo Quatro is out and about doing the business. This unit is the four-metre version, which is nestled in the middle of a three- to six-metre four model line-up.

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The ex-grassland being prepared for spuds

On the day of our test, the four-metre Sumo Quatro was mounted on a 380hp (plus boost) tractor (which was on its knees) in a grassland paddock, about to be moulded for veges. To be fair, there had been a lot of compaction that needed to be unearthed (excuse the pun).

However, you could physically see between passes that the soil had been lifted four to five inches, so while it may be hungry on the horsepower, there definitely is no denying that it does a solid job underneath.

On many farms around the country, and the world for that matter, subsoil compaction is a crop limiting factor that tends to be underestimated. This is where the key feature of the Sumo Quatro comes in, and while the process also sucks the horsepower out of the tractor, the winged ripper legs, which are mounted behind the first set of discs, were used to subsoil down to 40cm during our test.

Front discs

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Rubber-mounted discs for contour following

Starting from the front, there are two rows of 16 (32 in total) 500mm concave discs, which are mounted in pairs and give a total working depth of 100mm.  

The discs are rubber-mounted, which not only gives the ability to flex but is also strong and low maintenance. Sticking with the low maintenance theme, there’s a triple sealed bearing on a shaft between the double mounted discs. This is easy to get at and much lower maintenance than some of the individually greased bearings on competitor machines.

Another benefit of the paired discs is that they give excellent performance in trashy conditions. If one disc stops turning, the other disc is still in the ground and because they are mounted on the same shaft, this will keep the other turning, so it’s highly unlikely you end up with blockages.

Sub-soiling legs

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Flick over ram shims for depth control

The real power suckers are next, in the form of hydraulic reset ripper legs. On the test machine, we had eight subsoiler legs and these were fitted with the winged subsoiler legs.

One feature I was particularly impressed by is that the actual leg itself can be taken out and have a different leg inserted into the cast mould simply by removing a pin. The slotted system also allows easy depth adjustment on the rippers. For quick movement of the ripper legs, if you’re about to get stuck, they can all be hydraulically lifted as one.

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Hydraulic leg depth adjustment and hydraulic breakaway all in one

Our test machine also had a tungsten tip on the point of the winged leg. This looked like a sticky Post-it had been put on the tip, but it was unreal how much wear was behind that tip, as the soil had come up over the tungsten tip and then come back down onto the normal (hardened) metal leg. This goes to show how abrasive Canterbury soils are, as these legs were only 120 hectares old.

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The wear behind the tungsten point shows just how abrasive Canterbury soils are after just 120ha

Leg spacings are 500mls and the staggered arrangement makes it easier to pull while still having the same earth-shattering effect below the surface.

Second row of discs

The second batch of 32 hydraulically adjustable discs run the identical design to the leading mob, again 500mm in diameter and working to a maximum depth of 100mm to give a final mix and level.

Rear roller

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The multipacker rear roller leaves Sumo’s trademark ‘weatherproof ‘ finish

The rear ‘Multipacka’ roller is actually 4.5 metres wide on this machine and is 600mm in diameter with 800mm fabricated rings, which create Sumo’s ‘weatherproof’ finish, thanks to weight equivalent to 2550kg/m.

This ‘weatherproof’ finish allows seeds to be dropped into the V of the rings where the seed gets water as it naturally runs into the channel. It also gives the little plant some wind protection.

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Sumo’s ‘weatherproof’ finish

The test machine was running a Dal-Bo roller behind to give a different finish, purely due to the ground going into veggies.

This made the ridging and destoning easier. The Multipacka roller has robust scrapers, which aren’t easily knocked around by stones and eliminate sticking.

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A rear Dal-bo roller was used for final consolidation

The large weight of the rear roller could be prone to stalling, but thanks to the large diameter and the notched rings almost gives it traction to keep going in wet conditions and additionally chops stubble in dry conditions.

Construction

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The parallelogram drawbar design allows for more consistent depth control and contour following

By gee, by jingo, by crikey, this thing has a lot of steel in it. This works in two ways to benefit the machine. Firstly, it will be hard to break; in fact, they probably should give out a medal to any operator who can break this thing.

Secondly, the large tare weight (10 tonnes) keeps the machine in the ground which is great for dry hard conditions, with more than 150kg per disc for ground penetration.
Other features worth mentioning

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Leg depth can be altered from this pin; you can also completely change the leg if you want
  • The double drawer bar system works as a level lift. This essentially works like a self-levelling loader as the machine is lifted onto the large transport wheels the drawbar self-levels so that you don’t end up snapping the towing eye
  • The working depth of the machine can be changed by altering the height of the rear roller and the stoppers on the drawbar.
  • A three-point linkage, quick hitch system with a ball and spoon (k80 hitch) is available. Our test machine, however, was running off the drawbar. I prefer this personally, as it allows that positive weight transfer onto the tractor for traction and also there’s much less drag on the rear linkage arms. Because the machine is very heavy, it takes a lot to pool and the drawbar possibly is a safer option.
  • The ‘Tri-box’ chassis design allows for a narrow three-metre road transport width complete with commercial 10-stud axles, hydraulic brakes, and full lighting kit.

Verdict

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A bird’s eye-view gives an excellent contrast visual

It’s easy to knock the machine saying it’s power-hungry, however, bear in mind that this also means you achieve a lot in one pass.

So although you need a big tractor and high hourly fuel usage rate, the ‘one pass operation’ not only offsets some of the environmental factors of cultivating, but when you actually compare the time, man hours, and machinery wear and tear required for ‘traditional’ cultivation, you begin to see where it makes sense to go big. And the Sumo Quatro is just the ticket for this.

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There’s enough British metal here to keep the harshest critics at bay

Sumo Quatro specifications

Working width 4m
Total width 4.5m
Transport width 3m
Number of legs 8
Leg spacing 500mm
Leg working depth 400mm
Number of discs 64
Disc diameter 500mm
Disc working width 100mm
Tare weight 10 tonnes

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