Farming on the outskirts of the town of Rath in Co Offaly, James Dermody runs a mixed cattle and tillage enterprise. Buying in the region of 50 reared calves each year, James carries up to 200 drystock for the winter months, and grows 100 acres of his own crops.
Alongside, he looks after approximately 150 acres of crops on contract and drives a lorry in his spare time.
A man with a keen eye for machinery, all machines are meticulously maintained and are all stored under roof when not in use. To keep up with the latest in both technology and mechanisation, James tends to upgrade most machines on the farm after give or take ten years of use.
For the previous 10 years, James was running a Kverneland one pass system. With the system pushing on in age, James began looking around at suitable machines to upgrade.
He explained that the drill was in perfect working order, and that it would have sowed away for many more years, but that his main reason to upgrade was to make the move to a disc coulter set up.
“I have used Suffolk coulters all my life. They always worked well, but I set a lot of winter crops on hire into disced ground. I find that the Suffolk coulters tend to block and drag sometimes in the thrash in these conditions. For better seed placement, I decided I was going to make the jump to a disc drill,” explained James.
“I had a look around the market, but I only priced and studied two machines, Kverneland and Pöttinger. Spec with spec, there was very little pricewise between both machines, maybe around a €1,000 at the time. I found it very hard to differentiate between both, and opted to go with Pöttinger due to proximity to my local dealer,” he added.
James took delivery of his new Pöttinger Aerosem 3002 ADD drill in the autumn of 2021. With two years’ experience under his belt, we visited James to find out how it has performed to date.
The Aerosem is Pöttinger’s pneumatic combination drill offering. It comes in two variants; A, which features single-disc coulters and the ADD, which is the double disc offering, with James’s machine being the latter.
Availing of the TAMS II Tillage Capital Investment Scheme grant aid, James purchased the minimum disturbance non-PTO powered version, which saw the pneumatic drill sit on a Fox 300D disc cultivator setup.
In need of a power harrow for other works, James also purchased a new Lion 3002 in the same deal, which is a three-metre heavy duty (ten rotor) power harrow.
This gave him the flexibility to run the piggyback seed drill on either his disc or power harrow, depending on the conditions and job at hand.
To get the very most from his investment, James decided to make a frame to carry the Fox disc on the front of the tractor. Often using it as a press, he noted that it does super work sowing straight into ploughed ground and using the power harrow under the drill, in a single pass.
“The Lion power harrow does very nice work. Seeing as it’s a 10 rotor, it tends to let stones through it easier than my previous machine which was an 11 rotor. I don’t see any difference in the quality of work between both.
"I’m very happy with how the tines are wearing on the Pöttinger power harrow. I have over 400 acres put through it and I haven’t broken a tine yet.
“I went for the heavier packer roller based on advice from the dealer. However, I think it’s putting too much weight on the drill setup. If I was buying the unit again, I’d be going for the lighter packer roller for my type of ground. I could see the heavier roller maybe suiting heavier ground, ” James explained.
The Aerosem utilises Pöttinger’s own metering system. A seed flap provides a high level of fine adjustment depending on the size of the seed. According to Pöttinger, its metering wheel motor has a wide speed range, so that no gears have to be preselected and site-specific sowing is no problem.
Pöttinger Aerosem A/ADD seed drills are equipped as standard with a mechanical land wheel for driving the metering system. However, James’s machine is higher spec and features the optional electric metering system.
The seed is fed from the hopper to the distributor head via an air stream that passes up the high-rise tube. Pöttinger claim that its large diameter distributor head guarantees precise lateral distribution of the seed.
With the mechanical metering system, calibration is carried out using a hand crank, while a freewheel is provided in the driveline and the gearbox revolutions are displayed on the control terminal.
When it comes to calibration with the electric metering system, it’s carried out either at the press of a button from the machine or by pressing a button on the control terminal.
“Once the desired rate is set on the terminal, I generally take one sample, weigh it and input the results into the screen. Every time I’ve calibrated the drill to date, the drill has been spot on when I take the second measurement. I am very happy with how easy and how accurate the metering system is. It’s working really well.”
With the dual disc coulter system, the depth is adjusted for the entire machine centrally using two turnbuckles. This essentially means the coulter pressure is adjusted by using a ratchet spanner. This double disc coulter system is pre-tensioned by rubber elements.
Following press wheels come as standard on the double disc coulter system. These can be set in three different positions for seed placement depths of up to six centimetres. The double-disc coulters are slightly offset and form a V-shaped seed slot. Pöttinger claim that up to 50kg of pressure can be applied to each seed coulter.
“I am very impressed with the double-disc coulter system and the accuracy of the seed placement. Since I got the drill, I have been dropping my seeding rates more and more each year, without compromising on yield. I can do this simply down to the accuracy of the seed placement. I’m now typically sowing 11 stone (69.85kg)/acre. I’m getting more confident with it every year. The other big positive that I have with the system is that no matter what the conditions, I have never blocked the coulters,” added James.
The press wheels are finally followed by harrow tines, which feature spiral springs to cover the seed. The machine comes with a 1,250l hopper as standard, while an additional 600l extension brings its total optional carrying capacity to 1,850l. The power harrow with the heavy packer roller weighs in at 2,165kg and the drill weighs in at 1,320kg, which totals 3,485kg. According to James, the hopper is big enough for the overall weight of the drill.
James runs the drill through IsoBus on his top spec one-year-old Gen six Fendt 720 Profi Plus. For full accuracy, he uses RTK autosteer, which provides precision sowing down to 2.5cm.
When the machine came into stock, the team at Atkins in Birr fitted a rear mounted camera to aid James reversing into corners.
However, James decided to reposition the camera, placing it inside the hopper facing the agitator at the bottom of the hopper. Although the drill has a low-level seed warning, he noted that this begins alerting the driver when there’s 100-150kg of seed left.
“Repositioning that camera to the seed hopper was a super addition. It allows me to keep a very close eye on seed levels at all times, and ever so slightly drop the seeding rate if I’m nearing finishing a field and the level starts to run low.
"I’m really happy with the IsoBus control and how simple it is to navigate through. We have wired the camera into the tractor also, meaning I have the split screen set up to display the GPS, the camera in the hopper and the drill settings. It means I can keep a close eye on everything through the one screen.
“I spec’d the drill to allow me to shut off three rows for tramlines if desired, rather than the two rows on most drills. We are spreading fertiliser and spraying more and more on wider tyres, and I have found that this makes a difference when it comes to analysing a sample when it’s time to harvest. By shutting off an extra row, I find you have less green in the sample,” James said.
“The Aerosem is my first ever Pöttinger machine and in fairness I am very impressed with it. The machine is very robust, and is well-built, maybe even a bit too well-built – it’s heavy. In terms of metering and seed placement, the drill deserves top marks, it’s very accurate. I have never blocked the disc coulters to date. This was previously a big challenge sowing winter crops into disced ground, with the Suffolk coulters tending to block regularly. Machine set up and control through the IsoBus system is very user friendly.
“The one thing that bugs me is that I find the front coulter arms run very close to the frame. The manufacturer says I’m running the top link back too far, but I think these arms need to be a little longer for more scope. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing with the drill, it’s doing a great job and I’m getting even better results while sowing less seed,” James concluded.