Vegetable Farmers and their Weed-Control Machines [DVD]. V. Grubinger and M.J. Else. 1996. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase at http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/Videos/weedvideo.htm (verified 31 Dec 2008).
This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Weed Control Machines video clip.
Watch the video clip on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgHsWPZ5rx0
Bob Gray, Four Corners Farm. Newbury, VT
This machine we are using now is something we modified from a, well we got it from Canada, it’s a Canadian field cultivator they call it and we use it basically just for week control. We had to modify it from a larger size; actually these were wings that came from a fourteen foot model or something. Someone had sold the eight foot center portion and these are the outside wings - we had to weld it together and made it so it would fit between the rows of plastic.
When we lay down our plastic we always try to put our plastic just a tractor width or a little more apart. We use a lot of space between our plastic mainly just for weed control because we found when we had to do it by hand with a hoe or a hand push cultivator it just never got done. But if we can jump on a tractor we could easily do three, four, five acres in an afternoon or do ten lengths of plastic in a half an hour. And the advantage of this field cultivator over a tiller, we used to take the tiller and crank it up so it was really shallow and just cut the top two inches of the soil, it worked very well but it was slow. The beauty of this piece of equipment here is that you can adjust the depth and so we can use it as a primary tillage tool to loosen the soil and go six to eight inches deep if that’s what we want to do but when we’re controlling weeds we just want to skim the surface of the soil, the top two inches. And so with this adjusting wheel right here we can raise these tines up or down so they just barely skim because we don’t want to bring up more soil, we want to just sterilize the soil, the top two inches of soil and kill those weeds that are in that zone. So this is just simply a spring loaded or spring shank cultivator tooth, it vibrates, and creates a little more tillage action.
The thing I like the best is this reel in the back in that once you’ve broken the soil up there’s some clods of dirt just like this, that some weeds are actually growing in and by the time it gets through this thing rolling over it, it breaks it apart and exposes the root and literally hangs the weed up to dry and as you can see some of them hanging on the basket there. That’s important that you get the soil off the bare root of the small weed, and it’ll flip it over and lay it on top of the ground where the sun can bake it and kill it.
We’ve been trying to figure out a system for the edge of the plastic for as many years as we’ve used plastic. This is coming closer to what we want all the time. We used to use shovels, sweeps they call them, off the cultivator, but that would either go above the plastic and just skim along and not kill the weeds or go below the plastic and loosen it up and not kill the weeds either. We find with this we can run right over the top of the plastic and in fact sometimes I think it even stretches the plastic tighter and makes the plastic better because it will roll over the top and push little holes in it and punch it down further in the soil. So this is the zone, if you understand, on the edge of the plastic where the plastic curls down under where you secure it to the soil - there’s always a weed problem. Even with a hoe you end up tearing the plastic whereas this thing seems to go over and flick the weeds off, if they’re small. As I said, again these weeds are too big, we had a problem here and we missed them the first time through. Under ideal conditions if you time it right it works quite well.
This piece of equipment here actually came off a Lilliston Cultivator, some of your larger Lilliston setups have what they call an inner wheel, it’s a smaller spider wheel it runs very close to the plant. We just took it and modified it with the same hookup to this cultivator set up here. We’ve got an adjustment here so you can swivel it at an angle, the more angle you get the more action you get. We think it works pretty well.
I’ve got some weeds here in front of me and the time to get weeds is before you see them or just when they’re an inch or less tall because the root system isn’t very strong. By just flicking the dirt we can roll the soil over and get the weed exposed to the surface where it will die in a half an hour or less in the sun. Take a larger weed here, which is one we missed from the last cultivation. This weed has so much reserve of moisture and nutrients in the stalk itself that it will sacrifice that. That weed right there will not die in an hour in the sun, it may not die out all day in the sun. So you’ve missed it, once they get this big you’re in real trouble. It means hand work. So timing is everything. We always have problems, it rains four days in row and it’s warm and you can’t cultivate anyway, then the weeds get away from you.
I guess that leads me to another point, we have lots of cultivators and lots of tractors and I think you can almost never have too many. I like to have each piece of cultivation equipment on each tractor so I don’t have to stop and adjust and mount up because sometimes you don’t have the time to do that. It would be nice just to be able to jump from one tractor onto another one. It’s kind of extravagant but you can usually find a used tractor that if you don’t use it too heavily it will last for years. Just mount a certain piece of equipment on that tractor and get it set up perfectly and leave it.
This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).
This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.