View photos from Mechanical Weeding LIVE
Farmers advised to ‘create a weeding strategy which responds to the challenges that arise’ at Mechanical Weeding LIVE event
The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) teamed up with Innovative Farmers (IF) to host ‘Mechanical Weeding LIVE’ at the RAU’s Harnhill Manor Farm on Tuesday 9 May 2017, an interactive event which was attended by more than 100 farmers and students from the University.
The University has been carrying out a comprehensive weeding comparison, to assess different methods of non-chemical weeding. Like many farmers in the south of England, the RAU’s Harnhill Farm is suffering from lack of rainfall. The dry conditions have affected the trial; the crop is more susceptible to physical damage, and the weed growth is potentially reduced. However, there were plenty of weeds out in the field for the comparison to take place.
During Mechanical Weeding LIVE, farmers took part in a farm walk to see four different approaches to mechanical weeding. They were able to view the impact of one or two weedings on the winter wheat crop, and evaluate the effectiveness of the weed control. They were also able to visit the large trial plots where the machinery had been used for a series of planned weed control strategies, and discuss these methods with one another and the machinery manufacturers.
The machines ranged from: harrow comb tines on the Opico machine, and rolling tines on the TRP Rotanet machine; to inter row hoes controlled by video image analysis techniques used to locate the cereal rows and take out the weeds between the rows with the Garford Robocrop, and the Combcut machine which combs through the crops and cuts off weeds growing above the crop canopy.
It was very difficult to evaluate the machines from one pass only, but it was clear that to achieve effective weeding, combinations of one or more of the treatments may be most effective. Ground conditions which were very dry exacerbated the impact of the stones in the Cotswold brash on some of the equipment. Farmers were advised that a flexible strategy which responds to the weed challenges that arise is the prudent course of action. This should include actions in pre drilling and seed bed preparation designed to minimise the presence of viable weed seed.
Dr Nicola Cannon said: “It was inspiring to see conventional and organic farmers come together to discuss the challenges of weed control. Everyone was pleased to have the opportunity to evaluate different methods of weed control and see the equipment working out in the field.”
Liz Bowles said: “The interest yesterday for mechanical weeding amongst farmers was very high. We believe this is the first independent trial of a number of different mechanical weeding concepts in the same field. The live trial illustrated the different operation modes and revealed that timing is key as well as ground conditions.”
Mechanical Weeding LIVE also included a series of talks which discussed the methods and challenges of weed control, and non-chemical solutions. A range of factors were considered: relay cropping; cover crops; competitive varieties as well as more futurist approaches of swarms of robots; and drones and imagery taking on the traditional tractor based agricultural work.
Thank you to Liz Bowles, Head of Food and Farming at Innovative Farmers; Tom Overbury, RAU Farms Director; Dr Nicola Cannon, RAU Principal Lecturer in Agronomy; Nick August, Director of August Farms Ltd; and John Pawsey, Shimpling Park Farm for giving such informative presentations.
Adrian Steele from Chapel Farm in Pershore was among the attendees at Mechanical Weeding LIVE. He said: “The event has a wider draw of conventional and organic farmers. I came to meet new people to discuss weeding issues outside of my usual group. I want to feel that I am keeping up with technology and the future of the land-based industry.”
Sebastian Murray is an MBA Advanced Farm Management student at the Royal Agricultural University, poised to enter the world of agriculture. He said: “I am excited for the future of farming, technology like robotics will make it more viable. The mechanical weeding event is very engaging, and I am eager to hear the results of the trial. I believe that farming will be more dynamic post-Brexit. No subsidies means more innovation, with the public getting more for their money.”
To find out more, or watch video updates from the Mechanical Weeding trial site, visit www.rau.ac.uk/mwlive. Get involved in the discussion using #MWLive17 on Twitter.
The RAU and IF are pleased to be working with Combcut, Garford, OPICO, Spearhead, and TRP.
Hear from the machinery companies
George Hall, Sales Technician at Garford, said: “Thank you to the RAU team for a great day at Mechanical Weeding LIVE. The guests gained a good insight into how to identify weeds and other methods of weed control, and were encouraged by the techniques available for mechanical weed control. The venue, lunch, and hospitality from the RAU was excellent.”
Richard Amphlet, Territory Manager at OPICO Ltd, said: “It was a fantastically well supported event with extremely informative seminars. Although conditions were not well suited on the day for any of the mechanical weeders, the response to the OPICO Comb Harrow Tined weeder was very positive.”
Mark Bayliss, Export Regional Sales Manager at Spearhead, said: “Spearhead were delighted to support the RAU's Mechanical Weeding LIVE event which surpassed our expectations. A highly-professional event with a great mix of information to suit the broad spectrum of attendees ensured that it was well worthwhile all manufacturer attendance.”
Sean Stanfield, Sales Director at TRP, said: “This was a fantastic event for TRP, which exceeded all of our expectations. It was wonderful to meet the farmers who attended on the day, and discuss how our machinery could meet their individual requirements. The opportunity to demonstrate what our machines can do, and learn from the trial, was one not to be missed. TRP feel privileged to involved, and that the day was a huge success. We really can’t praise it enough – when’s the next one!”