Soil Water Retention Friendly diplomas have been for the first time ever awarded at the Techagro, Biomass and Silva Regina fairs; they went to machines and technologies that help keep water in the landscape. Three diplomas go to two Czech companies – P&L from Biskupice u Luhačovic and OPaLL-AGRI from Dolní Životice in the Opava district.
The big droughts that have been returning over and over again for the last decade, making the soil dry down to a meter below the surface already in May or June, are a real problem. The reason is that water has no chance of being kept in the fields and land.
How to help, what to do to prevent the drainage of moisture from the landscape – it is a challenge that is faced nowadays day by farmers themselves, but also by developers and scientists. The Techagro, Biomass and Silva Regina trade fairs are going to contribute to this debate - this year, for the first time, diplomas have been awarded here in a category called Soil Water Retention Friendly. As the English title itself suggests, it is an appreciation for the beneficial effects of a machine or technology on soil properties (physical, chemical or biological) to improve soil's retention function. The jury has decided to award three products, all of them made by Czech companies.
Two diplomas were taken away by the company P&L from Biskupice u Luhačovic and the third by OPaLL-AGRI from Dolní Životice in the Opava district.
P&L as a star
P&L can be described – from the point of view its prize-winning in the GRAND PRIX competition – as a star of this year's agricultural and forestry fairs. Their Eco Tiller 600 and Varior 500, in addition to the "water friendly" category, were given the GRAND PRIX Techagro Award and the Farmer Magazine Award.
Their Eco Tiller is a strip tillage machine; it is a completely new product that has its professional première at Techagro.
For two years, the machine was tested in the fields under various conditions. The idea to produce a machine for a technology called Strip Till arose about four years ago, when the company along with scientists from research institutes tried to figure out how to get attention from farmers who grow corn in areas threatened by erosion. The result is the Eco Tiller. "Strip tillage is primarily designed for soil protection, soil water regime enhancement and energy saving. The water regime of the soil is affected by the preferential flow of water into the root zone of the planted crops. Soil treatment by the proposed machine shows a demonstrable counter-erosion effect, which reduces surface runoff, especially on sloping land," the jury stated.
The jury was also enchanted by the Varior 500 potato hoe machine, on which the company also worked together with a number of research institutes. Therefore, the awards were handed to the P&L Managing Director Antonín Šedek as well as Pavel Růžek from the Research Institute for Plant Production in Prague-Ruzyně.
The design of the machine has been designed from the very beginning to improve the retention capacity of the soil by infiltration of water from precipitation or irrigation. At the same time, it creates suitable conditions for an efficient use of nutrients, including surface and subsurface cultivation of stems and furrows. "When using this machine, the soil crust on the surfaces of the steins is disturbed and creates or restores the pits and dams in the non-track furrows", explained this year's jury its choice.
In addition to its features, the machine is also interesting in its design and equipment; in fact, many of its components are unique and patent-protected.
Hector – a sensitive Rambo
The historically first Soil Water Retention Friendly diploma was also achieved by the Hector 3H deep ripper made by the company OPaLL-AGRI.
It is a machine that will help on the field and the meadow. Hector rips the soil to a depth of 45 centimetres, but at the same time does not stir it; it aerates and hoes the soil. Such soil can hold more moisture. Hector also has its premiere in Brno. With it, the company responded to the wishes expressed by farmers and to the trend to be more environmentally friendly. This "sensitive Rambo" has yet another plus – thanks to the maximum utilization of hydraulic elements, it is easy to adjust and better protected from damage. It is undemanding as regards traction power, and its price is also friendly; both of these are important economic indicators.
Soil Water Retention Friendly
The expansion of the GRAND PRIX competition is a response to the permanently deteriorating soil properties not only in the Czech Republic but also to the global climate change and the resulting changes in the precipitation distribution. The big droughts that have been returning over and over again for the last decade, making the soil dry down to a meter below the surface already in May or June, are a real problem. Farmers have to write off a big part of their crops. "Everything can be solved, but you also have to consider the equipment and technology used, the crop composition, and take into account also the changes in the precipitation regime that occur," says Jiří Mašek, chairman of this year's jury and also the Dean of the Technical Faculty of the Czech University of Agriculture in Prague.
In his opinion, moisture and rainfall totals do not come within the Czech Republic much less than it was several decades ago, but they come in other times and especially with different intensity and they vary also in individual regions. These are not long-lasting rainfalls, but heavy downpours in just a few doses. In many cases, after such torrential precipitations, an impermeable crust forms on the surface of the soil, on which the water from the next downpour drips away and has no chance of being absorbed. Especially in South Moravia there has been a massive decline in precipitations with all the negative implications on the landscape and agricultural production. "From a nationwide point of view, the rainfall total is lower than it used to be, but not dramatically. A time is coming when it will be necessary to adapt to it and keep as much "fast-fallen" water as possible in the landscape," Mašek said.
What are such exhibits characteristic for? "It is about approach or philosophy – whether it fulfils the idea of water retention in the landscape. This year, we have invited colleagues who have been dealing with this topic and with technologies for water retention in the landscape for a long time. Generally speaking, the equipment should friendly to the soil, which may, for example, be implied by the type of its drive mechanism," said the chairman of the evaluation jury.
Good quality soil can help mitigate the implications; it must be capable of retaining as much water as possible. It can be "completed" by using suitable machines and technologies. That is why the Grand Prix was expanded by the awarding of a special plaque to help highlight machines and technologies improving soil retention properties. What are the exhibits? "It is about approach or philosophy whether it fulfils the idea of water retention in the landscape. We have invested colleagues this year with this theme and technologies for water retention in the country. Generally speaking, they are friendly to the ground, which may be the type of the drive mechanism, "said the chairman of the evaluation committee.
Special soil-friendly machines are constantly assembled and developed, but in the end it always depends on the farmer to use it at the right time. "Equipment and technology, that's the alpha and omega. But... We can have a very good-quality and sophisticated machine, but if we use it at an inappropriate time, for example when the soil is not in optimal humidity, we will do more harm than good. The action of the implements and the drive mechanism cause leads to undesirable compaction of the soil, thereby changing its specific weight and its porosity, and the rainwater does not have a chance to be absorbed," Mašek explained.
Jiří Mašek took up the position for the second time already and, moreover, he has dedicated himself to agricultural equipment for all of his life. What are the current trends in this sector? "Clearly, it is the enlarging of the span. The machines then have to turn fewer times and there are fewer crossings in the field that can damage the soil. But if we want larger work span, we need to use a stronger, and hence heavier, tractor. And then it depends on tires or another type of chassis... Everything can be solved, but you must use reason. We must never allow the soil to become a mere "rootholder", but keep the soil always as a living organism that will coexist symbiotically with the human species," he added.