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Machinery developments show where sunflower growing is heading

From seeder enhancements to sprayer developments to new designs of specialist headers for harvesters, there was a number of new technologies to take sunflower growers into 2020 and beyond at Agritechnica exhibition in Hanover, Germany.  

For farmers looking to increase work rates when applying fertiliser with seed, Monosem displayed its 3,500-litre CT3500 fertiliser cart, which enables users to carry 40 per cent more product than possible with a conventional 2,500-litre front-mounted hopper, minimising the need for a larger tractor and allowing sunflower growers to save on fuel use and minimise soil compaction. Suited to working with seeders with up to 16 metering units, it is mounted on a pull-type frame equipped with a three-point 4,000kg-capacity rear hitch. This allows the coupling of planters up to 12 rows wide at 75 or 80 cm inter-row spacings or 16 rows at 37.5 cm spacing. A variety of tools can be coupled to the rear, which has hydraulic and lighting sockets and a PTO shaft to mechanically drive the fans required for fertiliser and seed distribution.

With a maximum 1.8m ground clearance, Kuhn’s Stronger HD high-clearance self-propelled sprayer is aimed at enabling tall crop growers to make late-season spraying passes. Available with 3,200/4,000-litre tanks and 30/36/40m aluminium or 50m carbon fibre booms, track width is adjustable from 2.8 to 3.5m. Powered by a 7.2-litre MWM 280hp engine fuelled by a 600-litre diesel tank, the machine puts its power to the ground via a hydrostatic transmission. A Bosch Rexroth ‘intelligent’ pump is said to help minimise fuel use, requiring just 1,600rpm engine speed to operate at spraying speeds on flat land and helping the engine to consume as little as 10-12 litres/hour of fuel. The Stronger HD range is a result of Kuhn’s 2014 acquisition of Brazilian manufacturer Montana.

Bulgarian firm Metalagro’s Sunmaster Pro sunflower combine header complements its established Sunprofi, offering a lower cost alternative for those seeking less complexity. While the latter has a hydraulically-driven reel, this simpler, lower-cost version has a mechanically-powered unit, and is designed for handling the lesser amount of stalks and vegetative material from shorter sunflower varieties. Fitted with a Schumacher EasyCut II knife system powered by a Pro-Drive cardan shaft-based arrangement, the Sunmaster Pro is row-independent, and so can be used in any direction the operator chooses. Designed to minimise losses in crops where moisture levels are below seven per cent, the header, which is suited to all major combine makes, is available in 4.9-9.4m sizes.

Amazone claims to be the first to combine high-speed singling with mechanical drive in its new Precea precision seeders, available as the rigid 3000 and telescopic 4500-2, with either mechanical or electric metering. A system of pressurised air rather than vacuum adheres seeds to the metering wheels. Seed flows from the hopper to the centralised singling disc, the pressurisation sealing the metering unit and pressing seeds against the disc holes as the disc rotates, before passing a trio of stripper fingers, removing any excess seeds. After singling, seeds are propelled onwards to the propulsion channel, where the overpressure on the disc is interrupted and the seed shot into the channel. An optical seed monitor above the channel monitors the singling.

The Prosem K, from Spanish firm Sola, is the company’s latest development of its Argo precision drill, and can be fitted with a range of coulter types to allow minimum tillage crop establishment where possible. The large hopper can be used for seed if fertiliser placement is not required. The implement, which is available in 12-24 row models, can be fitted with interchangeable seeding units for different crops from sunflowers to maize and beyond. Coulter options span a whole range from Suffolk to tine to single or double disc, to allow growers on different soil types to specify their machine to suit their conditions and establishment systems. Electric metering is powered by the tractor’s hydraulic system.