Name: Simba SL400 Cultivator
Operator: John Leggett as it can only be pulled by our largest tractor, the Challenger, on tracks.
Visual Description: A long 4 metre wide orange trailed cultivator, with rows of soil-moving discs and tines and a metal DD packer roller on the back. On top, there is a white tank and a number of pipes that can be used to broadcast Oil Seed Rape seed or slug pellets, if required, as it moves over the soil.
Size: It is 4m wide and about 15m long and is fixed onto the tractor by a bar that is connected to the two arms on the back of the tractor, so that the operator can always keep the implement level, depending on the depth that the soil needs to be worked to.
Work rate: With an start and an finish, you would easily cover 40 hectares of stubble, which varies on field size, headland shape, depth of work, but still is much quicker and more fuel efficient than ploughing. General rule of cultivations: the deeper you move the soil the slower you go and the more fuel you burn and the more pounds that are added to the cost of productions.
Controls: There are not many controls for the operator in the cab, apart from the unit required to power and calibrate the broadcasting seeder on the back. Other than that, the tractor pulls the implement behind it and hydraulic oil from the spool values, linked to the levers in the cab, lifts up the wheels at the back or moves the packer roller on the back to ease the SL400 in and out of the ground.
Cost: We had been looking for a primary cultivator that could work at a range of depths. The SL400 first arrived on the farm as a demonstration unit from a local machinery dealer after we had looked at it in the year. Unfortunately, that one was sold before we had made a decision about buying it so we had to look to the second hand market in the farming publications. We came across this one with the added bonus of an already installed seeder on the back, so were happy to invest a bit more as we would not have to adapt our other seeder to fit on the back. We brought it back in March of 2011 and are really happy with the job it does and money it has saved us in reduced passes of cultivations this year. The whole machine cost £34,750 but this is a long term investment as the frame is built very strong, so hopefully only wearing parts will need to be replaced.
Jobs it does on the farm: This is a primary cultivator that is designed to break up the soil right behind the combine. It has five rows of soil movers attached to the frame. It starts with a row of concave discs that are designed to cut, mix and break the surface of the stubble. Then two rows of sprung loaded tines are pulled through at a depth depending on what the aim is of the cultivation. Another row of discs then follow the tines to level the ground off before a packer roller consolidates the soil by pressing the weight of the machine down on to the surface of the soil. This produces what is known as a ‘rough stale seed bed’, which is left to allow any old grains of wheat dropped during harvest and any weed seeds to germinate and start to grow, so that we can then kill them off with a herbicide as they are unwanted. We sowed our Oil Seed Rape using the broadcaster on the back this year and it has radar on the frame that measures the unit’s speed which is calibrated to blow seed down the pipes to be dribbled on the soil surface. This is a vey cheap way of establishing the Rape and it worked well this year as the soil was very damp, which is ideal for starting a crop off well. The tines that are on the machine are designed to be lifted easily up and down so the depth is very flexible, when we sowed the rape we put them in deeper (8-9 inches) as the rape plant likes deeply loosened soil, whereas when we were using it for wheat establishment we lifted them up as shallow as we could to move the full width (3-4 inches) if we knew that the soil was in good condition underneath. We would judge the soil structure by digging a test pit or by looking at the crop previously grown in it and by notes taken throughout the year.