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Duncan direct drill gives contractor sustainable options

In the back of their minds, contractors are always asking, ‘Is there a better way?’

For Darryll Pugh Agricultural Contracting Ltd in Murchison the better way was a Duncan Enviro DD30 seed drill.

Darryll had been pondering his old Duncan MK3 Renovator tine drill. He says it did an excellent job, but if there was a stone in the paddock it would find it and bring it to the surface.

This was not endearing him to his clients given that the West Coast is not known for its stone-free paddocks.

His new Duncan Enviro DD30 is a perfect match, however. “Even if there are rocks on the surface, the Enviro goes over them,” he says.

Before they turned to contracting Darryll and his wife Lillyanne were dairy farmers running on the treadmill as they maintained high stocking rates, used lots of the chemicals, and had animals that were in poor health.

A motorbike crash in 2006 forced Darryll to reconsider what he was trying to achieve and how he considered the land.

He thought about conservation, climate change, and the rate at which machines burn diesel. He wanted to look after the land better and he says as a direct drill, the Enviro DD30 helps him do this.

Direct drilling holds in the moisture, minimises soil disturbance and incorporates more carbon from the residual crop.

“The DD30 can drill over trash, long grass or stubble whereas a tine drill drags it all out. It is like going to a pizza shop because it cuts with a big wheel that slices through everything.”

The Enviro DD30 is a multi-purpose drill. It will also go straight into ex-crop ground or sprayed out pasture. It can be used in existing pasture as an undersower, or even in cultivated ground.

Darryll favours minimum cultivation, although this is not always possible.

“If it is ground that has had a mob of cows on it over winter, it has to be cultivated. The cows seal it off and the compaction can go 100 mm into the ground. It’s like taking a nice cake and giving it to boys with chop sticks – it looks like the craters on the moon.”

After he cultivates a wintering paddock, he rolls it and then the Duncan DD30 will happily drill it.

“We stayed with Duncan because I like the durability of the machine. I am familiar with it and I knew the back-up is good. I am always able to ring them and talk to someone for technical advice.”

The DD30 is a trailing model with two rows of offset discs. A scalloped disc opens up the slot and gives good ground penetration in front of the second, plain disc.

It is a 23-run machine on 125-mm spacings. Darryll runs press wheels on the back. He previously had harrows and a roller on his old Renovator but said it was like backing a B-train.

“It tended to cut corners and hit posts. This one is compact. I can back into corners and square everything off.”

The front hopper is for fertiliser, and the rear one for seeds. If he is not using fertiliser, he can fill both with seed – either the same or two different varieties.

“I can put peas in one and oats in the other and apply them at different rates.”

The capacity is 1400 litres which amounts to about a half tonne of fertiliser and a half tonne of seed.

Darryll also added a smaller 105-litre hopper to spin on slug bait. It can be used for grass seed or other small seeds, and it is adjustable from the cab.

One of the attractions of the new drill is simpler calibration. He used to turn a handle 32 times, now he has electric drives for both seed and fertiliser. He pushes a button on the monitor, weighs out the seed ejected, enters the figure and repeats it again. After the second calibration the ejected seed is within 1 or 2 percent of the target rate.

A radar on the drill monitors the ground speed, so it is always accurate whatever the speed of the tractor.

It took Darryll a little effort to get used to it. On a practice day he learnt the importance of getting the decimal point in the right place after he had to re-drill 3 ha. “It is simple once you're used to it,” he says.

The control system is a Topcon Artemis. The Artemis system monitors the bin levels, fan speed, area cut-out, shaft speeds and motor speeds.

“The Artemis system was new to me. My head hurt after all that learning, but it seems simple now.

“I had been planning to stay with what I knew and keep away from the electronic version, but I am pleased I went that way now.”

Darryll has drilled oats and peas (sometimes mixed together), grass and summer turnips. He will also be drilling winter brassicas. The accuracy has been good for all types of seed and it is easy to empty out the remaining seed and change varieties or batches.

Darryll pulls his Enviro DD30 with 155hp, which he says he needs on the hills. He has auto-steer, which allows him to pour his coffee without wobbling.

“I thought if I am getting this nice new drill, then I need to plant the rows precisely.”

Sales consultant David Jeffries from Drummond & Etheridge in Richmond supplied the DD30. The dealership provided excellent training, and Matt Moodie from Duncan also spent time with Darryll to ensure he understood calibration and could get the best out of his new equipment.

“What I traded in was technology that was good for the last 30 years, and now I have got technology for the next 30 years.”

For further information contact Giltrap Engineering on 0800 177 171 or