Written about us: Farmers Guide
One of the newest options for UK farmers selecting cultivation machinery is Bednar, displayed at several dealer open days and demonstrations during 2013, but which made its official debut at Cereals 2014 following a formal importation agreement with Knight Farm Machinery. David Williams was invited to visit the Czech business to see what is behind its recent successes.
Bednar offers a large range of products, all designed with features to suit the European market, and is progressively expanding its activities to include sales in most of Europe, and further afield. Bednar is the name of the family which owns the business, the trading name having evolved from Strom; a John Deere main dealer part-owned by the Bednar family, to Strom Bednar, and then Bednar when the family took on full ownership of the manufacturing company.
The first machine offered by Strom, in 2000, was a green-coloured disc harrow. Mulching mowers followed shortly after, and proved popular with users and remain in production. From 2002 the company became involved in min-till cultivators, the products for which it is best-known today.
Bednar claims that its products will be the best selling cultivation range in the Czech Republic for 2014 and, only 18 months after its products first became available in France, it has sold 160 large cultivators through one salesman during that time, and expects this success to continue.
In recent years the Bednar cultivator brand name has become well-respected across Europe and further afield for its quality of build and well-designed functional equipment and, in 2014, the Bednar products were shown in the UK at Cereals for the first time by Knight Farm Machinery, following an agreement that it would be the official UK importer. The Russian market is another success story, with the company currently third in the market for tillage equipment.
The Bednar range of products remains mainly cultivation machinery, but also includes the heavy-duty rotary mulching mowers. The factory employs 180 staff working in two shifts and there are 240 employees globally.
At the time of the visit, in late autumn, the factory's output was limited following recent factory expansion, and because finished machines awaiting delivery have to be stored inside due to the harsh winter conditions expected during the coming months. Investment in the plant is continuing with plans to build a large outdoor area for assembly of a new cereals drill, and the product is expected to be in high demand. A dedicated visitor centre is also a target for future investment, so the Bednar family's ambitions for the company are not modest.
Bednar export sales manager Jan Bednar explained that the company owes much of its success to its having reacted to trends in the market caused by changing demands from agriculture. He said that the change from ploughing to min-till cultivations during the period to 2010 had allowed farmers to reduce establishment costs, but he said the technique had resulted in lower yields and reduced revenue. "Land is becoming less available and there is the need to intensify production.
We are facing greater extremes of weather conditions too. At the same time the wider harvesting machinery in use today has meant that post-harvest cultivation equipment has to deal with greater concentrations of residues behind the harvesters which creates a challenge for us as designers, and the seedbeds created have to be precise for optimal emergence but we have to try to make them less attractive for slugs too."
Since 2010, he added, there has been more demand for deep tillage through cultivation rather than ploughs to achieve optimal growing conditions without high fuel use, and he explained that the company has seen strong demand for dual-role machines which can be adapted for different crops and times of year.
An example of Bednar's current thinking is the new Striegel-Pro straw rake, designed primarily for use directly behind the combine to encourage volunteers and weed seeds to chit, but which can also be used after a plough to create spring seedbeds.
Available in 7.5 and 12.0m working widths it has six rows of spring rakes, the final two rows running at a different angle to the front four for an improved finish. Parallel linkages allow sections to move separately to follow contours, essential across the wide working widths. Both versions fold to under 3m for road transport with a maximum height under 4m.
The feature which sets the Striegel-Pro apart from other straw rakes is a row of front coulters to cut through trash, but these can be replaced by leveling paddles for seedbed work, the paddles smoothing ploughed or heavy-cultivated land ahead of the lighter sprung rakes. The leveling bar at the front is hydraulically controlled, "We see the versatility of the rake as being a key to its success," explained Jan. "Good machinery isn't cheap and we know that farmers will appreciate being able to use the rake for both autumn and spring cultivations rather than having to put it away for 10 months of the year, and the rakes work well on spring land with no blocking and no press needed."
One of the main potential markets for the new rake is the Czech Republic, as the technique of stubble surface cultivations has yet to be adopted there and it is expected to appeal to very large farms, allowing large areas to be covered quickly and with low fuel use.
Bednar's mulchers are designed to cut and mulch very tough stalks, but are also available with lighter grass knives for more conventional mowing tasks. They are said to provide excellent shredding and crushing of material, distributing it evenly across the working width. Jan explained that they have proved popular for cutting oilseed rape and maize stubbles, and are effective against the corn borer, destroying the habitat provided by the stalks. Available in 4.5, 6.0 and 7.0m working widths, they offer high work rates for efficient treatment of stubbles.
Having specialised in developing cultivation products for large arable farms in Eastern Europe, Bednar claims to have mastered the concept of producing machines with the work rates and cultivation performance demanded by modern farms.
The Swifterdisc XO 5000F cultivator offers deeper cultivation than a straw rake but a high rate of work with low power demand.
Disc cultivators, the company explained, offer the ability to work immediately after harvesting preserving soil moisture and saving time for following deeper tillage operations, reducing the power requirement and machine wear. The key requirements are quality of mixing of plant residues with soil, effective chopping of larger plant pieces and to encourage controlled growth of weeds and volunteers.
"For short disc harrows speed becomes a problem," said Jan. "They become unstable and create waves on the soil surface which create problems for drilling and for sprayers later. This also causes uneven depth of tilth. The problem is caused by the unsuitable location of the rear axle behind the packer roller and a small gap between the rear set of discs and the rear packer, and one solution is to slow down and operate under 10kph, but this severely compromises the work rate.
"Our solution is to incorporate the transport axle between the rear discs and the packer, or in front of the disc sections, and to provide sufficient distance between the rear discs and the rear packer," he added.
The new Swifterdisc XO-F, with working widths from 4.0-7.5m was used as an example with an integrated axle in front of the rear packer, and the larger Swifterdisc XE, available in working widths of 10 and 12m currently, but with a 14m version currently in development, was also shown with all four wheels at the front, ahead of all the working elements. All fold to under 3m and with an overall height under 4m for transport and are said to provide very fast turnaround on headlands.
Jan said all products are designed to require minimum adjustment. "Complicated adjustments are a waste of time," he explained, "and when time is precious immediately after harvest the ability to set up the machine quickly, with hydraulic adjustment of combined components is an advantage."
To cope with trash unevenly distributed across the work area, Bednar's solution has been to mount pairs of discs on each arm, reducing the number of legs by half over single disc-mount systems, and providing twice the available space for trash to pass through, reducing the potential for blockages. Large 520mm aggressive wavy-edge discs cut and mix effectively but with demands for even higher work rates a new heavier duty machine has been developed.
New Atlas cultivator
A recent addition to Bednar's range is the Atlas HO, which has an extended frame allowing an integrated axle between the rear discs and press, and which has large 660mm twin discs, with double spring overload protection.
The prototype Atlas cultivator which has been undergoing testing on Jiri's farm, operating behind a Claas Xerion.
Larger discs can cause problems by dragging the implement sideways, particularly when working deep, but on the HO discs are mounted in a shallow cross formation, maintaining a large clearance between the back of the discs and the rear packer but ensuring the discs pull straight behind the tractor.
Available working widths are 4.0-7.5m. "The 2013 and 2014 harvests have been very high yielding for most farms, but this has resulted in some of the heaviest trash we have seen post-harvest which is why we have developed this new version of the Atlas," said Jan. "The large discs will provide thorough mixing and chopping of trash without the problem of blocking," he added.
Additional option for primary tillage
The Fenix range has a new addition; the FO-L which is claimed to offer great quality of work at a competitive price. It has an integrated axle providing hydraulic adjustment of working depth and can be used with or without its packer to suit wet or dry autumns.
Chisel plough for OSR
A triple-angled leg design is the main feature of the Terraland chisel plough, the point and lowest section breaking up the base subsoil layer to ensure permeability, without lifting clods to the surface or mixing.
Above that is the tine which mixes soil and trash and, at the top, a different angled section covers the plant residues. Mounted TN, and semi-mounted TO versions are available. Non-stop operation is provided by 1,500kg hydraulic tine protection and an integrated axle between the front and rear rows of tines, on the semi-mounted version, controls working depth.
Saving costs with efficient fertiliser application Bednar has been experimenting with improved methods of fertiliser application, and explained the benefits gained through application of fertiliser with the Terraland TO chisel plough, during cultivations. This is made possible by the Bednar Ferti-Box, currently in its third generation prototype form following two full seasons of evaluation.
Application of fertiliser during cultivation and drilling offer significant benefits says the company
Jan said the attractions of the system are its ability to provide three times better availability of nutrients to the growing plant, allowing significant savings to be made as the quantity of P and K applied can be reduced by two-thirds. He said the distribution system allows nutrients to be applied at different depths at the rear of the chisel tines so they are present when and where needed for optimum uptake. The Ferti-Box also lends itself to use with implements from other manufacturers such as precision drills, allowing fertiliser to be applied during planting. Further developments include application of liquid fertilisers.
As a cultivation product manufacturer a surprising omission to the range until now has been an inter-row cultivator, but this has now been remedied with the Row-Master, which enters production for 2015.
The main objectives of inter-row cultivation, Jan explained, is to reduce moisture loss by tilling only the area required, to break up the surface allowing access of air to the root system and selective weed control by area. The new Row-Master has a camera-based guidance system built-in. Using a Claas Cam-Pilot camera to recognise the crop rows the cultivator self-steers, moving side-to-side on the tractor linkage to line up with the rows. The prototype version shown was an 18-row model but, when the machine is launched, it is likely to be available in various working widths.
Cereal drill announced
Building on its experience of cultivation machinery, Bednar has developed a cereal drill. The first prototype was trialed in spring 2011 but later versions have evolved with modifications and the units about to enter production feature a front packer across the whole working width followed by two rows of discs, then a row of disc coulters to apply fertiliser, a row of staggered support wheels and then the seed coulters; all double disc and parallelogram-mounted.
The new Bednar Omega drill has been operating under test conditions and will be available late in 2015. It is available in seed-only or combined seed and fertiliser versions.
Row spacing options are 12.5 or 16.5cm and Jan explained 12.5cm is becoming increasingly popular as it allows more accurate seed spacing in the rows when drilling at higher speeds, due to greater spacing between the plants.
The metering units are stainless steel, and designed and manufactured by the company, and for accurate fertiliser and drilling rate control, the tanks are pressurised ensuring constant metering into the delivery tubes.
The drill has been designed to cope with the high trash conditions typical of modern farms with high-yielding crops and Jan said that tests in trash had shown great resistance to blocking as the front press wheels had pushed trash down into the soil ahead of the tines which meant it was held in position as the discs cut through. Working widths produced to date include 3, 4 and 6m with 8 and 9m versions to follow, although the objective is to offer models eventually up to 12m.
Eight prototypes have been operating during autumn 2014, and the drill is available from spring 2015 in selected markets close to the company's base while final testing is completed. Knight Farm Machinery sales manager David Main said his company will be monitoring performance closely, with a view to adding the drill to its range available for the UK during the next few years.
Asked about priorities for the future of Bednar, Jan explained that the Omega drill and machinery for the application of fertiliser during cultivations and drilling are providing a focus currently.
Precision drills are another area which might attract the company, due to increased interest from growers in planting all crops, including cereals, at optimum seed spacing.
For the UK. Bednar, working with Knight, will be building up an after-sales division to provide all the back-up needed by users and Knight service and parts staff will be attending training courses. "Knight is well-known in the agricultural market, offering high quality products and it is a well-respected brand," said Jan. "We see the future for the UK market as extremely positive." David Main said the company's objectives are to supply in excess of £5m/year of Bednar products within five years, and he said that so far 10 dealers have been appointed to handle the range.
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