An Amazone Cirrus drill was called upon to get a crop of Redstart into the ground as mid-August approached, which is getting late when it comes to catch crops.

James Cleary of Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary runs a spring-calving dairy herd and has come to appreciate the benefits of a fresh forage crop for youngstock over the winter months.

Timing is of the essence though, and the earlier the sowing, the better the results.

Following a week of patchy weather, the soil was still moist, however due to it being lighter ground, the decision was made to go ahead and get it sown as soon as it was possible to do so and Agriland went along to take a look.

James cleary with Aamzone cirrus drill
James Cleary with Amazone Cirrus combination drill

Fortunately, James had the opportunity to bring in an Amazone Cirrus 4003-2C combination drill, which is run as a demonstration machine by Farmhand, the agents and importers for the brand in Ireland.

Both the fields being sown had been growing winter barley before the stubble was given one pass with a set of discs.

This left a lightly tilled surface into which the Cirrus planted the seed at minimal depth (see video below).


Amazone Cirrus combination drill

This particular machine is a 4m folding unit with twin hoppers for seed and fertiliser.

Along with the seed, an 18% nitrogen compound fertiliser was being sown, as Redstart can be a "hungry crop" according to James.

Amazone Cirrus 4003 2-c
The Amazone Cirrus 4003-2C making the most of a break in the weather

To function as both a cultivator and drill, the frame of the machine supports five distinct elements, four of which work the soil while the fifth introduces the seed into the ground.

Cultivation by board and disc

The first element is an array of crush boards which are designed to break any clods lying on the surface.

As the soil was only lightly cultivated and clod free, they had been set at ground level to help level the surface prior to discing.

crush board and discs on combination drill
Individual crush boards are followed by two rows of discs

Teagasc recommends that when sowing catch or cover crops a relatively deep penetration is should be used to encourage the chitting of weed seeds. This can help reduce the infestation in the following crop.

The second element of the implement are two banks of discs, and these were consequently set at 50mm and constituted the major cultivation operation in this set-up.

It is possible to specify the drill with the discs in front of the crush boards, which is more suitable for heavy ground.

Matrix tyres
The tyres following the discs are patterned to consolidate the soil immedietly in front of the coulters

Having loosened the soil by discing, it is then reconsolidated by a series of 'Matrix tyres' which are made to Amazone's own design and are intended to firm the soil in strips, each tyre creating a consolidated strip for four seeds at 12.5cm row spacing.

Coulters on Amazone Cirus
This particular model is fitted with single coulters, twin coulters are available

Inserting the seed on this particular machine was a single coulter system that can exert up to 55kg ground pressure.

The large diameter of the coulter disc is said to smooth the running and so ensure a greater accuracy of seed placement.

Seed covered rather than buried

The seed is then covered by light harrow tines which do little more than move the surface layer about and so reduce the risk of the seed getting buried too deeply.

This is of obvious concern when the crop is being planted late and early emergence is desirable.

harrow tines cover seed
The rear tines act to cover the seed

Pulling the drill was a 200hp Fendt 720 which is reckoned to be quite sufficient, although anything much smaller might struggle, especially with full hoppers on heavier ground.

With a working speed of up to 20kph, the drill will happily cope with a good deal more power if available.

Fendt 720
Fendt 720 copes well with the drill which has a minimum power requirement of 180hp

Come the winter, James will be strip feeding the crop when he feels it is ready.

There are no hard and fast rules as it is very weather dependent; more rainfall meaning that he gives the cattle a little more space, whereas a dry couple of months will allow the cattle to better utilise what is on offer.

In previous years he has used either a fertiliser spreader to broadcast the seed or an air seeder mounted on a light harrow.

The Cirrus will ensure a more accurate seed placement, but with such a weather and time dependent crop, the advantages of sowing with the machine might be obscured by other factors.