TEST: KVERNELAND OPTIMA TFPROFI SX
Cultivating only the area that needs to be cultivated saves time and diesel – a winning situation for the contractor and farmer, Farm Trader finds with plenty of grass around, production and cow condition look promising for an excellent season. Farmers and contractors are busy making excess feed into supplement, planting crops for drier summer months and getting maize in the ground.
Maize planting season always involves a burst of intense labour, needing to happen in a relatively small window of time, ideally as soil temperatures start consistently hitting 10 degrees plus for best establishment.
With an eight-hectare block in Matamata cultivated and ready for maize planting, the early season timing presented a good opportunity for Power Farming Morrinsville to deliver the new demo Kverneland Optima TFprofi SX 8-row maize planter, and for us at Farm Trader to assess its latest features and design enhancements, sussing out whether the machine will make the busy period of maize planting a bit easier for contractors and farmers.
As with any new machine, choosing the right machine for the job is key, as is ensuring it has all the features and capability required to achieve maximum performance.
Proper set up of what can be a complex machine is also important, and it’s crucial to get things such as depth, spacing/seeds per hectare, and calibration of both seed and fertiliser right. With a maize planter, there are many different settings, which can be altered and which ultimately affect the outcome of your desired finish and yield.
For this reason, Charlie Matthews, North Island tractor specialist for Deutz-Fahr, was in charge of the tractor operation while John (JP) Chapman, Cultivation, and Seeding product specialist in the North Island, concentrated on making sure the planter was doing everything it was supposed to, making a few small adjustments specific to this particular job.
One of these was adding extra down pressure to the seeding units, which already have 129kg of down pressure due to the weight of each planter unit. On the demo machine, JP was able to provide extra down pressure through the hydraulic system used in the cast iron parallelogram seeding arms to ensure accurate seeding depth. This offers greater accuracy over a spring adjustable pressure system, which is important if you start pushing operating speeds out to the maximum of 18km/hr.
The other area of improvement in terms of ground following is in the twin spear hydraulic rams of the land wheels. This allows flotation across the machine while still maintaining ground pressure, which comes in handy for ridges or uneven ground.
This feature may still work with the two standard land wheels but functions better on the four-wheel optioned machine. If you’re operating at higher speed, it would definitely be something you should tick on the spec sheet.
One of the most important new features of the Kverneland Optima planter unit is its cast iron parallelogram mounting system. This offers impressive strength and rigidity as well as contributing toward the overall 129kg weight of each planter unit, making for excellent ground penetration. And with the extra hydraulic down pressure system, you can add up to another 125kg of downforce.
New 410mm spoke press wheels minimise soil build up on the double planting discs in challenging conditions while 50mm (or 25mm) V press wheels offer 0–45kg of ground pressure depending on soil conditions.
Seeding depth is easily adjusted with a simple wind adjustable depth handle. The new fully pressurised planting system offers greater accuracy, with two points where seed is blown onto singulation discs to ensure no misses. Seeds are kept in airflow almost to the bottom of the planting unit where they are firmed into position.
Several options are available for mounting the Kverneland Optima TFprofi SX to the tractor, from basic ring eye or K80 ball to the linkage mounted Cat 3 cross shaft. On our demo machine, this proved the best option, allowing turns of 90 degrees on headlands. Standard with a PTO-driven fan to provide consistent airflow, this mounted directly on the crossbar, with the pivot point for the drill behind this. You can also have hydraulic fan drive as an option.
Folding out from its working width of less than three metres takes next to no time (well maybe two minutes, but that’s nothing over the course of the day). One small niggle for me is around the weight and balance of the machine with the two outside seed units and wheels folded for transport.
It doesn’t look overly stable, however, the design team have done the calculations and assure me that it can handle transporting half a bin of fertiliser like this at a recommended speed of 40km/hr, (although in reality this is more likely 50km/hr).
Often an easy way to increase the productivity of a machine is to increase the capacity. In this case, the Kverneland Optima features a 20% larger fert hopper than the old model, taking it to 2000 litres.
The key here is that you don’t need to stop and fill up so often. Fold-down galvanised steps allow access to the front of the fert bin for filling with 500kg bags. The bin height of 1.9 metres is quite manageable and within reach of your average 100hp farm tractor and front-end loader. An optional auger is available for loading if you’re tipping bulk fertiliser out of a truck.
The other nifty feature in the fertiliser area is the four weigh cell system, which tells you how much you have put in for a set area initially, and how much you have left as you go. This monitor can be mounted on the drill or in the tractor cab.
Fertiliser distribution is controlled by an electro-hydraulic drive, which uses a low 18 litres per minute oil flow rate.
Features of this system are its easy calibration and ability to adjust from the cab. ISOBUS compatible with variable rate is possible either manually or via GEOCONTROL, which may be of use to farmers using yield mapping data from the forager at harvest time.
Capable of being run through the tractor’s ISOBUS screen, this demo Kverneland Optima was running through its own monitor. Being touch screen, the monitor is pretty straightforward to navigate, allowing you to easily toggle between the fertiliser and seed planting display.
The seed display gives you a speed per hour, hectares covered and seed rates, etc. The rest gets rather technical, operating the electric drive motors to the eight seeding units, starting and stopping at the correct time: the magic that computer technology can provide.
For the Kverneland Optima TFprofi, this magic is called GEOCONTROL. When operated with GPS, it shuts one row off after the other at headlands. Benefits include savings on seed with no double or triple ups and also no spots missed leaving space for weeds to grow and contaminate the crop.
This technology also leaves the driver with fewer things to manage, so they are able to stay focused on operating the tractor in the field conditions.
On the demo machine, the large iMonitor of the Deutz-Fahr tractor was used for tractor function display along with the GPS auto steer mapping. If you’re not running GPS or want a fail-safe back-up, hydraulic folding marker arms are available (which our machine also had).
There are a number of options and extras that can be added to the base Kverneland Optima TFprofi SX planter. For a contractor, I think I would spec this machine exactly as this demo model was.
For example, saving initial spend on two versus four land transport wheels will slow you down in the paddock, meaning you’re not able to maximise efficiency by operating at the speed it’s capable of.
I think you’d also end up with less accuracy in terms of depth control on the outer seed units, plus it would be a lot rougher on the drill and tractor in the process.
As is the case with this latest model Optima TFprofi SX planter, construction and build quality have always been the main selling features of Kverneland equipment. A good example of this is the weight in each seeder unit of 129kg.
New features improving accuracy and operating speeds will help increase the overall efficiency. Not requiring a 300hp tractor to run this machine is a bonus, and making use of technology available through GPS and the likes of the Kverneland Culti-Strip means further efficiencies maybe gained.
Cultivating only the area that needs to be cultivated saves time and diesel – a winning situation for the contractor and farmer. As technology and innovation continue evolving, it’s always worth checking out the latest machinery releases and assessing the cost savings that can be made through effective performance.
Written by Mark Foughy - Farm Trader