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If a definition of madness is to continue doing something and expect a different outcome, then Craig Scott is one of the sanest people on the planet. Craig is a field research farm manager for Dow AgroSciences at Omata, south of New Plymouth.

Under continuous cultivation, soil structure at the research farm was deteriorating so, rather than cultivate harder and more often, he changed tack. For the last five years staff at the farm have been using a Vaderstad Carrier disc cultivator. “To get a better soil structure we wanted to change to non-PTO implements. PTO-driven equipment, like power harrows break down the soil and beat it with flails to a finer tilth.”

They spoke to advisors from their local Norwood Farm Machinery Centre and came up with a three-pronged approach: 1) one pass with an aerator, 2) one pass with the Vaderstad Carrier, and 3) lucerne rather than lupins as the rest crop. “This is reversing the damage and improving soil structure and fertility. Another bonus is fewer passes, which saves time and fuel and reduces soil compaction.”

The Vaderstad Carrier Craig opted for is the 300 model. It is 3.0m wide and mounted on the three-point linkage. They chose it to fit in with their existing 3.0m tramlines. The Carrier runs in combination with Vaderstad’s BioDrill seeding unit.

Craig is one of two farm managers who tow the Vaderstad Carrier behind the 110hp tractor. He says the cultivator-drill combination is heavy and needs at least 100hp. Both operators find the Carrier easy to connect and to use.

“It has bout markers on the arms that you raise and lower to mark the next row. They are very precise.” The Carrier has to be easy to use and accurate because individual test plots on the research farm are 1.0m x 2.5m, which amounts to about 1000 plots per hectare.

The Vaderstad Carrier cultivator has two rows of discs, followed by a packer. There are options for different types of discs and packers. Craig chose Vaderstad’s TrueCut 470mm discs and a single SteelRunner packer. The TrueCut discs are designed to be tough with bigger cut-outs to handle crop residues. Working depths can be as shallow as 1.0-2.0 cm and as deep as 15-20 cm.

“We tow a Vaderstad rake behind the Carrier. It breaks up solid clods that make it through the roller, and levels out the ground.”

Spacings on the BioDrill seeder are changeable, but much of the time it is used to sow cereals at 150 mm row spacings. “The BioDrill is very easy to calibrate. Throw the bags into the hopper, turn the handle, weigh the seeds and adjust accordingly,” Craig says. He keeps a record of the settings for different seeds.

The Vaderstad is designed to be fast, however Craig doesn’t exceed 8.0 kph given the small size of the plots they work.

Craig says the Vaderstad Carrier is multi-talented. It will incorporate stubble or prepare a seedbed. With the BioDrill it can drill into stubble or work in cultivated ground. He has used the BioDrill to sow seeds ranging from peas to brassicas.

“It requires minimal maintenance, which is one of the good things about it. We grease the roller, and eye the glass showing the oil level. Other than that we don’t touch it.”

Craig is pleased with the improvement in soil structure and says if the Carrier ever wears out he would get another one. “But it is solid. It won’t wear out in my lifetime.”

Vaderstad is imported in New Zealand by C B Norwood Distributors Ltd.