Those who visited the Ag Leader stand at last year’s Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany, might have spotted the yellow Soil-Max Gold Digger tractor drainage system. It was the prelude of the system entering Europe.
In Europe, especially in the Western part of the continent, installing a drainage or tiling system tends to be the work of specialist contractors using heavy duty tracked and self-propelled chain trenchers and ploughs. There’s just a handful of specialised manufacturers of these drainage machines. Now, Dutch Ag Leader importer Homburg Holland wants to adapt the Soil-Max Gold Digger tractor drain/tile plough to suit the needs of Benelux farmers.
Since 2012, American company Soil-Max, founded in 1997, is part of Ag Leader. There’s different models including a pull-type model and 3-point models. The top 3-point models require a 20,000 lbs (9.070 kg) heavy horsepower tractor and lays drainage pipes up to 5,5 feet (1.68 m) deep and the smaller 3-point model requires an 8,000 lbs (3,625 kg) heavy tractor and lays pipes up to 4 feet (1.22 m) deep.
According to Homburg Holland, the Soil-Max Gold Digger is a perfect match to their globally sold Homburg drain cleaners or drain jetters since the clientele is the same. This tiny machine cleans out drainage pipes using water and the company claims to have invented it. The drain cleaner can also help locate clogged up and damaged drain tubes. Managing Director Jack Thibaudier is convinced that the Gold Digger is suitable for European farmers. “Not for full scale drainage of undrained fields, but I definitely think farmers would want their own drainage machine to add or replace drainage tubes if needed. It however needs some modifications however to suit their requirements. In the Netherlands for instance, both arable and dairy farmers want to see as little as possible disturbance of their fields by drainage machines. And, they don’t have the heavy tractors like in the US available that are required for the existing Soil-Max models.”
Dutch and also European horizontal drainage systems commonly drain to ditches and therefore, drainage ploughs and trenchers start laying drainage pipes from ditches whereas in other situations, the Gold Digger starts laying pipes from wells. Due to the slopes of the ditches, the existing Gold Digger can’t be positioned well enough.
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Homburg and Soil-Max are currently discussing modifications to adapt the Gold Digger for use in the Benelux countries. These include a lighter construction to require less heavy tractors and to cause less disturbances in the field. The lower power requirement and disturbance will partly be derived by using a knife-like frame that cuts through the soil easier. A rig to carry the drainage tubes on the drainage tractor will also be constructed so there’s no need for an additional vehicle and or trailer. The existing Gold Digger models are already up for sale in the rest of Europe.
Unchanged and actually required for quality drainage according to Homburg, will be the Intellislope drainage plough control system. Developed by Gradient and also acquired by Ag Leader in 2012, the system is used to manage the plough depth and direction per RTK GPS. “The tolerance on (unwanted) height differences in drainage pipes equals half the diameter of the tube so Intellislope is a must.”