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Inter-row and intra-row cultivation

Einböck CHOPSTAR | FarmDroid FD20 | Ferrari Remoweed | Garford Robocrop inter-row cultivators and custom finger weeder | Steketee EC-Weeder | Terrateck wheel hoe


The Einböck CHOPSTAR is a spring tine cultivator for mechanical weed control in a range of conventional and organic row crops including cereals and vegetables. Available in a number of versions, the CHOPSTAR can be used for crops with a spacing of 30 cm, 60 cm, 90 cm and 150 cm. “Depending on the aim of the hoeing pass, crop and weed growth stage and conditions, the CHOPSTAR can be equipped with a variety of tools such as heaping/hilling elements, heaping sweeps, weeder tines mounted behind the elements, finger weeders and manual hydraulic or automated camera-guided steering systems” explains Shane Kelly of P.J. Callan Ltd., distributors for Einböck in Ireland. “Weather, soil conditions and timing are key. Dry conditions are most effective for using the CHOPSTAR spring tine cultivator when the soil is slightly crusty on top and the weather can desiccate the dislodged weeds” Shane says. He continues “the number of tines and width of sweeps for each hoe section on the CHOPSTAR depends on row distance and weeding width. A range of tines and sweeps are available for different working depths. For crops with row spacing over 60 cm there are shares and tines that allow greater working depths, and for tracks behind tractor wheels or between ridges to loosen up the soil and drag out the weeds. For narrow row spacing vibro-tines with shallow sweeps are recommended. In addition, adjustable rolling discs are available to protect small plants during early weeding operations.”

The CHOPSTAR frame, on which the hoeing parallelograms are mounted, is available in a rigid or hydraulic folding version, both for front or rear mounting. The CHOPSTAR design allows the rear mounted machine to be converted to front mounted. Shane says “Einböck build CHOPSTAR frames individually for a small rigid machine, up to an 18 m frame as a folding machine.” The rear mounted CHOPSTAR is steered by the upper link of the 3-point hitch and gauge wheels that carry the weight of the machine and prevent it from drifting, especially on hilly land. Each hoeing parallelogram is equipped with a three step adjustable retraction spring, for down pressure adjustment of up to 105 kg, and depth control wheels so that the working depth of the hoeing tools are precisely maintained during operation. A frame clearance of 70 cm allows weeding and ridging up in later stage crops. For precision weeding of early stage crops, the parallelogram can be mounted directly above the crop, rather than between the rows, to create a very narrow hoeing belt (CHOPSTAR-TWIN).

Shane explains “the CHOPSTAR can work on the flat as well as on beds or in ridged potato crops, and can be assembled according to customer specifications.” He says “for weeding crops such as brassicas, the machine can be fitted with three tines for 45 cm row spacing with a further two tines on each parallelogram that creates a small hoeing belt between 8 cm and 10 cm.” He adds “the vibro-tines can be more easily adjusted than the spring tines to a working depth of 2-3 cm to avoid spilling soil on the crop, and the special vibro-tines (40 x 12 mm) that are mounted on most CHOPSTAR machines are recommended for hard, stony soil.”

“Finger weeders can be added to control weeds particularly at the early stages. They break up the unworked hoeing belt close to and between the crop plants without damaging the crop and roots. The CHOPSTAR can also be fitted with a seat and steering system for further manual precision or the Einböck camera steering system and the ROW-GUARD side shift frame that can be operated via a control unit in the tractor cabin” he says.

The Einböck CHOPSTAR IS available from P.J. Callan Ltd.

Further information on the Einböck CHOPSTAR

FarmDroid FD20

The FarmDroid FD20 is a fully autonomous, solar powered field robot that is capable of precision seeding and weeding in a range of conventional and organic crops including beets, kale, salad leaves, herbs, onions and turnips. It has a 3 m working width, up to 24 hours operation time per day and a forward speed of 450 m to 950 m per hour in autonomous working mode, which makes it capable of seeding and weeding up to 6 hectares per day.

Setting up the FarmDroid FD20 begins by recording the field or working area boundary and the row spacing and plant density required into the control system. The software then calculates the in-row seed spacing and creates a map of where each seed will be placed. Using accurate RTK-GPS, the FarmDroid FD20 knows where the crop plants should be and can weed both between the row and in the row without using a camera.

There are two sets of soil engaging assemblies trailing from the front toolbar. One set of trailers for precision sowing and intra-row weeding and another set of trailers for carrying interchangeable weeding tools. For weeding, hoe shares and weeding wires run between each row, while blades cut between each crop plant in the row. FarmDroid FD20 is capable of working to within 5 mm of crop plants between the rows and 20 mm in the row. The weeding arm for in-row weeding is connected to an electrical motor, which pulls the arm in and out of the row. The timing is managed by the robot’s computer and can be adjusted closer or further from the crop. Weeding is performed both up and down the row. For seeded crops, FarmDroid recommend blind weeding before the crop has emerged followed by inter and intra row weeding. The FarmDroid FD20 can be configured for 4-12 rows with row widths of 22.5 cm to 90 cm.

FarmDroid was founded in 2018. IAM Agricultural Machinery Ltd. is the distributor for the FarmDroid FD20 in Ireland.

Further information on the FarmDroid FD20

Ferrari Remoweed

The Ferrari Remoweed, produced by Ferrari Growtech (Costruzioni Meccaniche Ferrari) in Italy, is an automatic three point linkage mounted weeder that can remove weeds both inter-row and intra-row in a single pass. It is suitable for conventional and organic vegetable crops such as salads, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower that have similar shape. The Remoweed consists of a hydraulic floating frame with weeding units equalling the number of rows to weed (available for single or multi-beds). The machine can remove weeds along the width of its frame while moving forward. Each independent weeding unit is equipped with an infrared light sensor that detects the presence of crop plants during a pass. Every weeding unit is also equipped with a pair of hydraulically operated arms with two cutting blades at the ends that cut weeds up to 1 cm away from crop plants. The working height of the blades is adjustable while the opening and closing speeds are automatically set to the working speed and type of soil.

The Remoweed is suited to crops with a minimum inter-row spacing of 25 cm and 4 cm in-row spacing. Weeding becomes more accurate and reliable when crop plants are larger than weeds and when there is enough space between crop plants within the row. The Remoweed can weed between 6,500-9,000 plants/ha and comes fitted with an electronically controlled fertiliser spreader. Operating parameters such as working height and the distance between the blades are set using a touch screen panel in the tractor cab.

Brophy Produce Ltd. demonstrated the Ferrari Remoweed automatic weeder.

Further information on the Ferrari Remoweed

Garford Robocrop inter-row cultivators and custom finger weeder

Garford inter-row cultivators are custom built to suit customer requirements for mechanical weed control in a wide range of row crops. Garford offer hoes from small 1.5 m working width up to 24 m trailed types. Hoes can be front or rear mounted, guided by the tractor driver, a second operator on a seat behind the hoe, or the Robocrop Precision Guidance System.

The Garford inter-row hoes can be equipped with a variety of tools including tines with duck foot and flat shares, blades, hilling shares and finger weeders. Raised bed cultivator systems feature tines and ridging ploughs in the wheel tracks and a range of shares between the rows on the bed. Different crop protection shields and disc options are available for non-bed applications. For row widths of 25 cm and below, Garford supply one wheel unit per three rows. Front linkage is available for frame sizes up to 6 m. The pressure ram system used for most models transfers weight from the toolbar onto the row unit to improve soil penetration and unit and hoe stability. Specialised equipment can be added such as fertiliser or spraying systems.

The Garford Robocrop inter-row weeder uses a digital video camera to capture images of the crop ahead of the weeder. These images are analysed by the computer to find the position of the individual crop plants as they pass through the image. For reliable operation the crop must be the more dominant feature in the image. This information is then utilised for lateral steering of the hoe, and individual synchronisation of the weeder discs in the Garford Robocrop InRow Weeder.

The Garford Robocrop inter-row weeder can be used in most crops that are planted with regular plant and row spacing where the foliage is separated from the next plant, including vegetable crops such as lettuce, cabbage, celery and carrots.

Emmett Dunne of Leo Dunne Ltd., Leo Dunne Organics and O’Duinn Organacha uses tractor GPS and a Garford Robocrop inter-row weeder with a front mounted camera guided cultivator and a rear mounted hoe guided by a second operator on a seat. The weeder is equipped with tines and modified duck foot shares on the bed, and tines and ridgers for the wheel tracks. Emmett uses mechanical weeders in both his conventional and organic crops and says it significantly reduces labour costs and is a vital weed control option with reducing herbicide availability. Depending on the crop, he typically uses a brush weeder first followed by four or five passes with the Garford Robocrop inter-row weeder working at 7 km/h. Dry weather conditions greatly improve mechanical weeding he says.

Further information on the Garford Robocrop inter-row cultivators and custom finger weeder

Emmett also uses a home-modified rear mounted inter-row cultivator equipped with staggered finger weeders designed to control germinated, small and emerging weeds in row crops. With tractor GPS, his finger weeder is steered by a second operator who sits on a seat behind the cultivator. The finger weeder consists of a turning disc with fingers on it. The flexible fingers work in between the crop row to uproot weeds between the crop plants.Custom finger weeder

Custom finger weeder

Steketee EC-Weeder

The EC-Weeder by Steketee, a Lemken brand, is a fully customisable hoeing machine for all crops seeded in rows including cereals, beets and vegetable crops such as lettuce, carrots and onions. The machine can be adapted to row widths from 15 cm to 150 cm, working widths up to 17 m and 70 cm passage height, and can be equipped with a complete range of inter-row and intra-row tool options.

“Hoeing as close as 2 cm from crop plants is possible with the EC-Weeder. The hoeing tools cut weeds close to the surface, pull them out or bury them. Finger weeders remove weeds from within the row by means of rubber fingers, which act between the crop plants. For crops meeting across the row, a single blade or ridging shares can be used” says Derek Delahunty Area Sales Manager for Lemken Ireland.

The base frame is rigid or folding, while the parallel steering frame (EC-Steer) has a swivel range of 20 cm left and right. When the EC-Weeder is raised, the hoeing machine is automatically centred behind the tractor. The support wheels allow the machine to be operated with open lower link stabilisers, which prevents the transfer of movement between the tractor and steering frame.

Hydraulically operated parallelogram elements allow section control and adaptation to changing soil conditions.

The EC-Weeder is available with a manual or automatic steering system (IC-Light camera control). Both systems hydraulically control the parallel sliding frame. Manual control is achieved with a joystick and the tractor hydraulics. The optional automatic IC-Light camera steering system contains three key components: the camera, the terminal including job computer and the parallel sliding frame. The high resolution camera makes images of the crop rows and sends these data to the terminal. It detects between one and five crop rows in hues of green and the red, blue and green colour spectrum. The touch screen terminal is integrated in the job computer, which processes the camera images to precise steering signals. The parallel sliding frame transfers the steering signal from the terminal to the EC-Weeder hydraulically. The hoeing machine is then steered between the roes independently from tractor movements.

Leonard Mol Head of Sales at Steketee says “timing is key with mechanical weeding. It needs to start when there are no weeds, especially with the finger weeder.” Adding “it is important to have the right combination of tools. Machines can be altered to suit grower scale. For example, it is possible to have a basic hoe system for a small grower by removing the steering system and the camera control system. The quality of weed management in that instance will largely come down to the driver.”

He continues “mechanical weeding decisions start a year ahead, such as whether to plough or not, seed bed preparation, rotation and planting dates. Decisions are not just dependent on herbicide options. Future growers will have both sprayers and hoeing machines. An integrated approach.”

He adds “in the Netherlands it has been very dry this season so growers who normally spray are not able to because spraying is not as effective in dry conditions. They need mechanical weeding options.”

“There is demand from the vegetable sector. The crops are high value relative to other crops. The bottom line, mechanical weeding reduces the need for labour. The EC-Weeder is very adaptable for vegetable crop growers. It is successfully being used in commercial crops of carrots, leeks, celery, brassicas” Leonard says.

Further information on the Steketee EC-Weeder

Terrateck wheel hoe

Terrateck wheel hoe

The Terrateck wheel hoe is a versatile mechanical weeding tool for small to medium sized growers and market gardeners. Available as a single or double wheel hoe, with a comprehensive range of attachments, the Terrateck wheel hoe can be adapted to any type of soil and crop.

Elmer Koomans, Sales Manager at Fruit Hill Farm, explains “the single wheel hoe, fitted with an oscillating how for example, is used for weeding between rows of vegetables, while the double wheel hoe equipped with Lelievre blades or finger weeders improves precision by passing directly over the row to control weeds as close as possible to the crop.”

Elmer continues “using the double wheel hoe and parabolic discs covers weeds in the row and also removes soil and weeds beside the crop making it an ideal tool for leeks and onions.”

Additional tools can provide a range of mechanical weeding solutions for growers, as Elmer explains, “the 5 tine cultivator/aerator can be used for loosening hardened topsoil, removing established weeds and uprooting the remains of crops after harvesting, the collinear hoe for weeding between rows, and the ridger for ridging potato, leek and onion crops.”

“An offset arm assembly for both the single and double wheel hoe allows you to walk alongside the wheel hoe as opposed to behind it” he adds.

On the benefits of the Terratek wheel hoe Elmer says “the Terrateck wheel hoe is a cheaper solution than machinery for small to medium scale growers and is a very useful tool for small areas. It has the potential to significantly improve weed control and reduce the time and labour costs involved in hand hoeing.”

The Terratek wheel hoe and attachments are available from Fruit Hill Farm.

Further information on the Terrateck wheel hoe