February 14, 2009

mechanical weeding equipment

I have been thinking about midsized farms after reading about how they are disappearing. Very large farms are surviving and there is resurgence of small farms of 5 acres or less. But the midsized farm and the old "general" farm where a practically closed loop system existed and a living made on a quarter section or so, is disappearing. It is the mid size farms which are the bread and butter of our food security. My first farm was this size and our vegetables fields was 20 acres. We utilized tractors with some very ingenious mechanical weeder regimes that I'd like to describe.

The book Steel in the Field is online at SARE, covering a wide variety of tools that weed, from finger weeders to Kongsgilde s tine cultivators, basketweeders to lely blind tine weeder. The 3 weeding tools that we used on my old farm were:

lilliston rolling cultivators

A heavy tool bar needed for these solid gangs: with several spiked spider wheels on each unit that can angle at 2 points to throw a little or a lot of soil out or into the row. They are ground driven and fabulous at uprooting perennials and useful to hill potatoes. We bought a big unit with a bunch of other farmers and divider up the cultivators because one 3 on a tool bar is ideal for small tractors in vegetable fields.

My favorite machine was an old farmall Super C that had this baby set up on the under belly hydraulics.

Made by a small company in the states the buddingh basket weeder eliminated hoeing in all the 4 row beds (carrots, onions, spinach, etc) for the first 6 weeks. It rolls like a hamster cage scuffing out small annual weeds - not so good with the perennials but they are easier to hand weed out after loosening up with the basketweeder. Ten years ago they cost 1,500 - not sure what they go for today, but it can pay for itself pretty quick if one has over 10 acres of vegetables.
They can be found at Buddingh Weeder Co

The underbelly mount tractors were made with with sweeps and shares, which are useful for 2 row crops like corn and beans. I found it more useful to have a basket weeder under the farmall and use this S-tine cultivator for the pathes and 2 row beds, the tines can be moved along the tool bar to adjust spacing.

Tools I haven't used that look interesting:

I see this tool in action in strawberry fields here in the Annapolis Valley. Buddingh makes fingerweeders that fit on a tool bar that goes under the hydraulics (like the basketweeder) that has similar action to the Ecoweeder. With this tool you need a friend and have greater precision with your weeding.

Here is a link to a slide show

I'm hoping to get over to Willsie equipment sales in Ontario one of these years. They have 10 acres of used vegetable equipment. There are some very inventive machines built over the past century and I'd be as happy as a calf in clover given a chance to wander through the old iron.

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