Several manufacturers and inventors ventured into alternative plough systems. Ploughing without the familiar shares. Some initiatives failed or disappeared. Two new plough concepts are on the eve of their introduction: the Huberpflug and the Butterfly.
We have been ploughing for hundreds of years. Over the years, numerous well-known and lesser-known companies have ventured into developing alternative plough systems. To work less deeply, and thus use less energy. Or from tramlines with unused cultivation land.
Most alternatives faded into the background, but times are changing. This also applies to user wishes and legal requirements. Consider cover crops and catch crops, alternative cultivation systems such as strip cropping and agroforestry , but also erosion control.
Google ‘disc plough’, and you will come across a variety of manufacturers, especially in India. They recommend their ploughs for hard and stony soil types and for plots with many plant or tree roots. Or google ‘Blaxta’ and you will find the Swedish Blaxta cultivator plough with ploughshares next to each other instead of behind each other. It was not a success.
In a sense, the shallow ploughing eco plough is also an alternative. However, we looked at ploughs without only the characteristic mouldboards/shares. Consider the swing plough that was in vogue for a while, but has disappeared for quite some time now. Well-known manufacturers such as Howard, Krone, Lemken and Niemeyer had such a plough in their program. By pivoting instead of turning, the weight was a lot less than with a reversing plough. That required less power and less fuel. Users did complain about the less effective turning effect. Especially in combination with crop residues. Moreover, the plough could not handle every type of soil.
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The Huberpflug, like a reversible plough, has a head and a central frame beam, but lacks ploughshares and vertical discs. Instead, large, hollow, serrated discs (which we know from disc harrows) turn the soil. Behind each disc, a powered horizontal, flat disc cuts the soil for the next disc (or pass). This distinguishes the Huberpflug from disc ploughs.
In addition, the angle of the turning discs is smaller. That also saves on power requirements. The cutting width of the 80 centimeter discs corresponds to that of vario plows: 35 to 55 centimeters per disc. The working depth varies continuously from 10 to 35 centimeters. Other working depths are possible with other discs.
During tests on different soil types, the tractor drove an average of 7.5 to 8 kilometers per hour. The concept is said to mix soil and crop residues better and is also better for soil life than ploughing. The Huberpflug must be able to replace the plough, the cultivator and the disc harrow. The capacity would be at least comparable to ploughing, while it costs up to 25% less fuel. Because all discs rotate, wear should be less than with traditional ploughs. According to Huber, his team must be able to handle 90% of all common soil types.
A new factory hall was completed a few months ago in the German town of Pasewalk, not far from the Polish border. There the entrepreneur will produce his Huberpflug. Development and testing are in the final stages, and there appears to be a lot of interest from both farmers and (plough) manufacturers. 60 patents worldwide protect the concept. Huber does not yet dare to comment on the moment of introduction or a sales price. These depend on the investor and the interested manufacturers.
Dutch manufacturer Steverink Techniek has been working on the Butterfly frontless bed plough since 2017. A plough that works without an initial and final furrow. So you always drive over the top. Due to the lack of an initial and final furrow, the plough is also called a furrowless plough.
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The idea originated with Wim Steverink in the context of a project ‘Lasting Fields’. “Within this project, we are developing a new agricultural system with various parties with tramlines, strip cultivation and autonomous vehicles and robots. We are developing the Butterfly to be able to plough from tramlines without a final furrow,” says Steverink. “That is why we also call the plough the driving path plough or bed plough. Initially with tramlines of 1.5 meters, but a 3.15 meter track width fits better with current concepts. The plough ploughs a net width of 2.75 meters without the soil of the tramlines themselves.”
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The Butterfly has a V-shaped ploughshare or goose foot in the middle of your own design. This is preceded by three discs. This produces two plowed strips of soil, each of which ends up on a curved conveyor belt directly behind the goose foot on the left and right. This belt turns the soil just like a mouldboard, and places the turned soil on a second conveyor belt. Meanwhile, three left and three right mouldboards plow the ground next to the central double, open to the inside. The central furrow is closed and an the final furrow is created on the left and right. It is then closed again with the soil on the conveyor belts.
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According to Steverink, the Butterfly can plough 8 to 15 centimeters deep on light and heavy soil and turn soil and any crop residues into a flat ploughing pattern. With matching furrow packer if desired. So far it has been tested at speeds of up to 6 kilometers per hour. The straps are comparable in strength to mats from harvesting machines. Although the Butterfly has more moving parts than a plough, the pioneer does not expect any problems with it. He has now obtained a European patent for his invention, which he believes can be an excellent (lighter) alternative to spade sowing with a top-mounted seed drill.
Production and sales of Butterfly plow are expected to start this fall. Previously, a target price of € 30,000 to € 35,000 was targeted, but Steverink now expects to reach around € 40,000 to € 45,000 as a result of the increased prices and inflation.