Home » Issue 21 21-2020 » FITZ Trainings Centre » Under difficult conditions: Hoe and Harrow Days

Under difficult conditions

This year, the HORSCH Hoe and Harrow Days as well as the Digital Field Day were marked by the Corona pandemic respectively even triggered by it. But despite the difficult circumstances both events still were a huge success.

When at the end of 2019 the planning for the Practical Field Days in summer and autumn 2020 started, nobody knew the term Corona. The idea was to present different products at several events – for the first time even in different countries. HORSCH went for France and Austria.
But the pandemic halted everyone’s plans and, of course, HORSCH’s plans, too. Thus, HORSCH started to think about creating an alternative for the popular and always well-participated Practical Field Days. The idea for a Digital Field Day as well as for the Hoe and Harrow Days was born. But differently to what the name is implying the appropriate sowing technology, too, played an important role.
In September and October small groups of ten to fifteen farmers visited the HORSCH headquarters in Schwandorf to learn more about the new products in the hybrid and organic farming sector. A hygiene concept was prepared and a separate area for speeches was set up in the large exhibition hall – of course with the required safety distance. During a normal HORSCH seminar the hall can easily accommodate 800 people. Andreas Bogner and Johannes Schmidt who in the HORSCH sales support department are responsible for the hybrid farming sector accompanied the visitors through the events.
The Hoe and Harrow Days started with a short company presentation and some background information about the development of the new products like the hoe Transformer VF and the harrow Cura ST. For HORSCH it was crucial not to take over an existing manufacturer in this sector but to design completely new and own machines to implement new ideas and innovations in this sector.
Michael Horsch then discussed with the present farmers about their point of view with regard to the current agronomic but also political challenges – keyword EU Green Deal. Please also see the article of Michael Horsch about this topic.

After a detailed technical explanation of the individual machines the group went out into the field. With regard to the Cura there were a lot questions that referred directly to the settings in different conditions to achieve an optimum work result. “What is the best setting for my harrow in a hard soil with lots of stones?” was one question that Andreas Bogner and Johannes Schmidt were able to answer immediately and to show in practice.
Even farmers who have already been farming organically for quite a long time showed great interest in the new products – especially in combination with the appropriate sowing technology.
Different demonstration lots were sown explicitly for the event with the new Taro SL. Winter barley was sown with a spacing of 12.5 cm and with a spacing of 25 cm.
The winter barley that was sown with a spacing of 12.5 cm was harrowed conventionally. On the one hand, it became evident how efficiently the harrow Cura works, on other hand, it showed how carefully the machine treats the crops and how fast the crops stand up straight again about only one day after the harrowing. The plants recover very quickly.

Taro SL

The Taro line stands for 6 m wide seed bars that can be used in combination with a HORSCH Partner in the 3-point of the tractor. The Taro 6 SL is equipped with a RollFlex packer and TurboDisc seed coulters. The RollFlex packer levels the soil and guarantees homogeneous conditions in front of each seed coulter. The individually suspended TurboDisc seed coulter of the third generation guarantees and optimum depth control and an optimum seed placement in all conditions. The high manoeuvrability on small, unshaped fields accounts for the efficiency of the new Taro seed drill line. The HORSCH Partner front tanks with their capacity of 1,600 litres respectively 2,200 litres guarantee an optimum weight distribution. The offset method, i.e. tillage and sowing are carried out in separate passes, allows for new sowing windows especially in years with a lot of rain. What is characteristic for the machine is the low dead weight of about 3,000 kg (depending on the equipment) for 6 m working width and the high variability of the row spacings: 12.5 cm, 15 cm, 25 cm and 30 cm. Due to the optional hosing of the two distribution towers and a HORSCH Partner with an electric half-width shut-off the row spacing can be changed from 12.5 cm (15 cm) to 25 cm (30 cm) by the push of a button. The Taro SL is an optimum complement of the machinery especially for farms who carry out mechanical weed control with harrow and hoe.  

The winter barley that was sown with a spacing of 25 cm then was hoed. Especially on merely organic farms this is very important as they work without mineral fertiliser. If you hoe at the right time, you can provide the crop with a real mineralisation boost and with the required nitrogen that is stored in the soil.
The focus of the first Digital HORSCH Field Day that took place on 23rd of October also was on the hoe and harrow technology but also on other machines and innovations. The main reason for the success of the one-hour event was the high information content in a rather short time. More than 500 people watched the event live on YouTube and Facebook. At the beginning of November the Digital Field Day had been watched 25,000 times on these two social media channels.
The effort and the preparations in the background of such an event must not be underestimated. There were always two cameramen on the ground. In addition, also the pictures made by a drone were transmitted live.
A professional cutter in the outside broadcast van was responsible for always transmitting the best pictures. The transmission into the web was carried out via a satellite to prevent any losses during the transmission or variations in quality.

But the biggest challenge was the weather. For in the night from Thursday to Friday is rained so heavily that the machines could not go into the field. So the event became a hybrid event: All talks and the question-and-answer parts were live. The demonstrations and presentations of the machines directly in the field had been recorded the day before during the final rehearsal while the sun was still shining. Thus, on Friday it was possible to revert to these recordings. 
Michael Braun led the audience through the Digital Field Day and Michael Horsch held a short opening speech. Among others he admitted that HORSCH lately had used the term regenerative farming too intensely. According to Michael Horsch this term implicates that “something has to be repaired”. But this is simply wrong, and this is why HORSCH now uses a term that it has been using for quite some time and that it even created: hybrid farming.

The first machine that was presented was the Transformer VF. Many participants used the chat to ask questions. With regard to the Transformer they were among others interested in the different tools HORSCH currently works on and in the topic of under sowing seed directly during the last hoeing pass. There will be a possibility to mount a distribution tower at the Transformer to apply under sown seed in combination with a front tank. The Taro SL is the “appropriate“ seed drill for the Transformer and for sowing crops with a spacing of 12.5 cm or 25 cm for a later hoeing of the crops.
The most frequent question of the live chat, thus, was about the switching between the two row spacings. “How fast can you do this?“ The answer: at the push of a button. If the Taro is ordered with selective hosing and the double distribution tower, the half-width shut-off of the front tank can be activated virtually immediately. With regard to the mechanical version the driver has to get off once and move a lever at the fall sluice of the front tank.

Transformer VF

At the last Agritechnica the hoe Transformer VF was awarded the prize “Machine of the Year”. It is the basis for the new HORSCH hoeing tool line. VF stands for VariableFrame which is available in 6, 9 and 12 m working width. The laterally variable frame with an adjustment range of 450 mm is integrated in the basic machine and does not work via the usual intermediate coupling frames. This saves weight, allows for a low overall depth and results in maximum precision. The clearance below the frame is 660 mm. Thus, the Transformer can also be used later in high crops. It can cover row spacings from 25 to 90 cm. The stable 3-bar parallelogram is also ideal for heavy soils and for different row spacings – 75 cm, 50 cm and the corresponding 25 cm respectively. The working depth can be adjusted easily and quickly without any tools. The 18 cm wide point is ideal for a lot of applications and can cut very shallowly. With regard to the camera system HORSCH relies on a well-proven technology with a large range of use due to a colour-independent 3-D row detection.  The colour selection in the 2-D mode guarantees even more possibilities of use. The system can detect small plants as of a size of 2 cm.
The ISOBUS SectionControl function allows for an automatic lifting of the individual segments. The current position is determined via GPS. Thus, the individual parallelograms are lifted automatically at field boundaries, on the headlands, at overlaps or in specified areas.

The next machine was the Finer SL. Beside the version with tines and a heavy harrow a version with a packer for seedbed preparation will soon be available. Moreover, there will be carbide-coated duck foot coulters to guarantee a long operational life and, due to the all-over cutting, a constantly high working quality. The Finer is the new HORSCH cultivator line and is to be used all year long for keeping the field black and for a targeted seedbed preparation.

In season 2020/21 the Finer will be available in 6 and 7 m working width. The farmers who already own a Terrano can retrofit the existing machine with the TerraCut point to also benefit from an all-over and flat cutting. Especially when breaking perennial grass clover, the points show their advantages – 500 kg release force at the tine, a coulter width of 40 cm and a tine spacing of 30 cm speak for themselves. The Terrano FX was demonstrated with the knife roller Cultro. The low working depth in combination with the TerraCut point allows for an operational speed of more than 12 km/h. This is the speed at which a combination with the knife roller makes sense from an agronomic point of view.

TerraCut Point

The newly developed HORSCH TerraCut is used for the shallow, all-over tillage at a depth of max. 8 cm. The 40 cm wide wing point is combined with the well-proven LD or LD+ point and can be used with all HORSCH TerraGrip coulter shafts. The shallow setting angle of the TerraCut point provides a safe cutting effect and a low mixing effect thus guaranteeing an efficient drying out of growth or catch crops. From an agronomic point of view the TerraCut point can be called the breaking specialist – referring to catch crops as well as to for example grass clover. The enormous advantage is that all existing HORSCH Terrano cultivators can be equipped with the point for this particular application. The TerraCut point, thus, is the specialist for shallow cutting without mixing.

There also were a lot of questions with regard to the harrow Cura ST, mainly about the durability of the tools, especially the harrow tines. Depending on the soil conditions the tines can be coated with carbide. This increases the durability for example in sandy soils and compensates for the surcharge on the purchasing price.
“What about the weight?“ also was a frequently asked question. Due to the weight of 2,300 kg for the 12 m wide harrow it works excellently on heavy and cloddy soils and is ideal for breaking crusts in spring. The weight is also advantageous when used in grassland.
With regard to the working widths the Cura ST will be available in 13.5 and 15 m with a 3-point linkage. Moreover, there also will be a 24 m wide harrow in a trailed version.

Cura ST

In addition to the optimum weight of the Cura, the maximum frame height of 450 mm allows for also harrowing high crops. Therefore, the springs are mounted above the frame. The double spring guarantees a working range of 500 g to 5,000 g and allows for a fine blind harrowing but can also work very aggressively. The pressure can be adjusted hydraulically. An almost constant tine pressure for different tine positions allows for cultivating contours like for example potato ridges. In the wear area, the harrows are 130 mm long, 8 mm wide and are available with an optional carbide coating for an extremely long service life. The position of the support wheels (up to 11) at the frame can be adapted to the spacing of the row crops.

The end of the Digital Field Day dealt with the topic of band spraying. Instead of mounting plant protection nozzles on a hoeing tool as usual HORSCH carries out both passes separately with the hoe Transformer and a HORSCH Leeb sprayer. The advantage is that for both passes you will be able to work at the optimum date with utmost efficiency. The optimum date for root herbicides is in the early emergence stage of the weeds. For the first hoeing pass, however, the weeds can be larger as the competition pressure in the row is controlled by the band application. Three aspects play an important role with regard to band application with a large sprayer: exact connections when sowing are the prerequisite for a separate system. The exact standard boom control system HORSCH BoomControl allows for a precise distance to the target area and thus results in a uniform band width above the crop row. The boom height and the emission angle of the nozzle determine the band width.   
In addition, a steering axle is favourable to be able to guide the nozzles exactly above the row. The Claas camera system is being tested at the moment to automate the adjustment of the tyres and to guide the nozzles above the crop row. The same camera system is used on our hoeing technology to detect the rows and to control the variable frame.

Band spraying reduces the inputs significantly and also the deposits in the environment as the agent is not applied on the whole field but only on a defined band. The application is not only limited to the crop rows. In another pass, the spacing between the row, too, could be sealed with a soil herbicide. At the Digital Field Day, the technology was shown in maize. But the system can also be used for other row crops. Due to the nozzle spacing of 25 cm of our HORSCH Leeb sprayers that is very common on the market it is also ideal for all crops with a row spacing of 50 cm respectively 75 cm. A special focus has to be set on the nozzles. At our Field Day we used an 80° nozzle which we limited in the nozzle cap by 60° and thus achieved a band width of approx. 25 cm. Newly developed nozzles with an emission angle of 40° are particularly suitable for band spraying.
One of the first questions in the live chat was about the availability: The 25 cm nozzle spacing is already available, the camera technology is still being tested. Some people wanted to know about the possible savings on the inputs. In our example maize with a row spacing of 75 cm the savings achieved by a band width of 25 cm amount to about 2/3.