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The Allen Custom P-D 12000 Drill is an excellent example of a machine built to perform; it is equipped with the strength to handle the extra stress of big jobs. Machine owner Ross Hewson describes the drill as a seed bar with a hopper, which if you really think about it, is a pretty accurate description.
To be fair it is quite a large 'seed bar'. In fact, it is the largest in the country of its kind. Spanning 12 meters with 80 coulters at 6 inch (150mm) row spacings. It is covering an average more than 10.5 hectares per hour since it has been in work.
Hewson Farms is the proud new owner of the machine. Ross and Rochelle Hewson, along with their son Joel and 12 full time (plus a large number of seasonal) staff run a large intensive cropping operation around the Ashburton district (NZ).
The Hewson team crop 2000 hectares annually in a variety of crops ranging from onions, potatoes, wheat and barley; to high value carrot seed crops along with rye grass and clover seed as break crops to feed the 11,000+ sheep the also fatten every year.
Obviously with so much going on, time is of the essence and the Hewson's require quality durable machinery to get the job done effectively and efficiently. With a property of this size, large gear is equally important.
Among the collection of Case IH and Fendt tractors is a 530hp quad track, which is used for the bulk of the cultivation work.
Although the Allen 12-meter drill is a monster, it does have a 14-metre set of discs cultivating the ground in front of it so there is still no bottleneck in front of the largest drill in the country.
The key reason behind going for such a large drill is that the majority of the 2000 hectare annual drilling is done in autumn, as this allows larger root development for the crops when the summer dry hits.
So what swung them to the Allen Custom Drill?
Two things mainly. First the simplicity of the design. The Hewson's don't need incorporation drills as 95 percent of the work is carried out on very well-prepared ground, so a rugged simple drill with the width to cover the ground with relatively low power requirements is ideal. The second factor was the build quality and reputation of Craig Allen and his team. The fact the business is local is also a massive bonus, as the next best option was an import out of America.
Although most will snob this drill as too big for most parts of New Zealand, there is no denying that it is ideally suited to this particular property, which allows a showcase of the ability of Allen Custom Drills. This model, the P-D 12000 is also available in 3 and 3.5 rigid meters or 4, 5, 6 and 8 meters folding down to 3 meters transport width also available to suit the masses.
Funnily enough, I remember saying that my impression of David Clark's P-D 6000 which I tested, that as these drills are essentially custom-built, if you wanted a 12 meter drill I'm sure Craig would build it - and here I am seeing it in action!
This series is targeted for the arable/contractor market. With the build consisting of steel (and lots of it); a hopper; metering equipment; some discs; press wheels; and tyres, it is the rugged simplicity most are after.
No free lunch for guessing this is a long heavy machine. To achieve the 3.5 meter transport width, the drill is shod with 800/45R26.5 tyres. This allows the 13-odd tonne drill to be scooted along the tarmac at a healthy 50km.
The machine is purpose-built with easy seed loading in mind, but as compromise of this, loading space for the hopper is at the rear. This is both a positive and a negative. The positives include easy loading of 500- and 1000 kg seed bags; being able to seed in the corners; and daily maintenance or adjustment of the coulters is all done in the open and from the top, so there is no need to get in and under the drill - a common gripe of the European kit. The only real negative is that without seed in the hopper, the drill has no weight on the drawbar, but only for a moment while starting the folding sequence. Once the wings are folded up, each side of the hopper weight is more balanced. Because of this, it can't really be linkage mounted (which will compromise turning circle on a dualed tractor), although the vast seeding width means tight turning is actually not necessary.
In the paddock, the drill is actually very agile for it's size. This is due to the press wheels being in front of the coulters which lift at the rear. It also means when you lift at the headland, the whole drill stays on the ground instead of placing all stress through the frame when lifting onto the transport wheels. Another positive of this rear-lift feature is that the weight of the drill is distributed over the 34 packer wheels, rather than scuffing or grooves left by lifting onto the transport wheels.
The fold down wings have active down pressure on them, running from the fan through to the damper and back to the dump on the tractor. This ensures there is constant ground pressure. The damper then allows oil to flow out of one side for contour following, although with rigged 6 meter wings, it really is a flat paddock machine.
Like all other Allen Custom Drills, the P-D features the Accord metering and distribution system. Additionally, the RDS Artemis electronic rate control is fitted which gives the machine the auto calibration features as well as being able to vary seed rate on the move. The calibration is as simple as placing a container under the meter; filling to the desired level with the prime button on each metering unit (one on each side); and weighing the contents - then the computer will do the rest.
Michael Vanderweg, the drills main operator, found this particularly straightforward and easy to do, with considerable time savings over the previous drill.
The digital controller in the cab has a large easy-to-read screen with an easy uncomplicated menu and a keypad for typing all your info in. The only difference over the smaller machines is this has a seed metering system (and seed tower) for each wing, so you can shut one off to tidy up overlap areas without seed wastage. Main features cover fan RPM, ground speed, sowing rate hectares drilled, pre-start button (from starting from stationary position) and tramlining, as well as a cumulative total of both hectares and hours used, so over the life of the drill efficiency can be measured in hectares drilled per hour.
I was very surprised how little this drill took to pull. I expected to see some brute on the front, but the 240hp Fendt 824 tractor was using 2.7L/ha of fuel during the test and at over 10ha per hour there is no denying this is a very efficient setup.
This is a very simple and effective system. There are more fancy setups on the market than a double disc and a press wheel, but because the roller is in front of the discs, the contour following of the machine is taken care of.
Because annual rainfall is so low in parts of Canterbury, leaving seed in the furrows created by the press wheels rather than tyne harrowing or rolling can have advantages. For this size machine it would simply require another pass, as a roller behind this would impractical. Additionally, the furrow creates a natural channel for water to sink into beside the seed and also shelter wind. Because large coulter travel in unnecessary, the P-D Series coulters are mounted on RHS clamped with four rubber blocks. Anyone who has been around machinery will realise the fewer moving parts, the better, as ongoing running costs are very low. This, combined with efficiency, is of huge appeal to the Hewson family.
The hydraulic depth adjustment is easy with blocks placed on the ram, but for individual coulter adjustment, a spring loaded pin is placed through a series of holes for the desired depth. Adjustment is a little time-consuming, but it may never (or only occasionally) need adjusting for variation crop type.
Craig Allen and his team should be very proud of this machine. Not only is it the biggest in the country, but these Kiwi-made products are regularly getting the nod over large European and American manufactures. The ability to customise (as the name suggests) to suit the buyer is a definite advantage, as each region has its own slightly different requirements. The P-D 12000 has the ability to drill in excess of 10ha/hr with a 240hp tractor using 2.7L/ha and with four tonne of seed in the hopper - enough for 40ha of nonstop drilling. I would suggest that this may not only be the biggest drill but may also be the most efficient drill in the country.