Eight years after adopting controlled traffic farming across his land, Andrew Cragg purchased his first Case IH combine. Aside from RTK-guided steering, Xtra-Chopping straw distribution and a header width that fits his system are among the factors making it one of the final pieces in his CTF jigsaw.
South-eastern England farmer Andrew Cragg was an early adopter of precision farming technology, having first yield-mapped the harvest results across his 560ha of silty clay soils in 1996. While he subsequently began to address some of the variation he discovered by variably-applying fertiliser, having identified low yield patches attributable to areas of deficiency, elsewhere it was clear that it wasn’t necessarily the composition of the soil that was holding yields back, but its structure.
Alongside a renewed focus on correcting structure damage where necessary, that led to a decision in 2008 to adopt a controlled traffic system, working on a 12m basis to match the farm’s implements and restricting vehicle paths to as little as possible of each field, using the same paths year on year. The installation of a farm mast to provide a real time kinematic (RTK) satellite signal correction made possible sub-2.5cm auto-steering accuracy with year-on-year repeatability, crucial for making CTF work.
SEEING THE BENEFITS
“Once we were able to store path lines and limit field traffic to them, after a few seasons we began to see lower fuel use, easier to prepare seedbeds and reduced winter ponding on field surfaces.”
But with a cutting width of 9m, the farm’s drum-and-concave/twin-rotor combine, although tracked, was the piece of the jigsaw that didn’t fit, leaving behind significant out-of-line compaction.
“I looked at a bigger header from the same maker, but it was fractionally narrower than 12m, which is no good for the level of precision I’m aiming for,” says Mr Cragg.
“That led me to look at other options, and Case IH was one of the few at the time that could supply a machine of the capacity I wanted with a header slightly wider than 12m – 12.5m to be precise – to ensure we have the small margin necessary to stay within our tracked areas.”
Although header width was a key criteria for combine selection, Mr Cragg had 33 others against with which he compared his potential combine purchases.
“Among the other attractions of the Case IH Axial-Flow 9230 was the ability to provide an unloading auger with the reach to keep trailers on the tramlines. Case IH were able to offer a factory-warranted auger of suitable length, and were prepared to make adjustments to it after the first season when we found it wasn’t quite long enough. The pivoting spout was also appealing for additional ‘throw’, as was the ability to shut off the cross augers and completely empty the unloading auger tube where required, which is handy if unloading has to be halted.
“Other features, such as the end-fold for the unloading auger, and the higher unload speed, lighter weight and greater footprint area than competitive models, helped convince me to switch from the combine we were running, and we purchased an Axial-Flow 9230 in time for harvest 2015.”
But among the other key attractions was the promise of the new Xtra-Chopping package, pairing the standard 120-blade Case IH MagnaCut II chopper with the MAV from Canadian firm Redekop (now supplied ex factory by Case IH). The system has two key benefits, lacerating straw lengthways to hasten its breakdown and, courtesy of 12-blade paddle fans at each end of the chopper rotor, generating maximum air flow velocities of up to 180kph (106 miles/hr) to draw straw and chaff through the chopper and propel it across the full width of cut.