Mechanising weed control is improving labour efficiency at a west Wales market garden.
Adam and Lesley York and their team at Glebelands Market Garden, Cardigan, are trialling an innovative wheel hoe as a Farming Connect focus site project.
The French-made Terrateck wheel hoe with bio-discs is designed for managing weeds even when crops are closely spaced. It has a double wheel frame to allow direct passing over crops.
At Glebelands the trial work is centred on leek transplants which are normally weeded by hand or with Glaser wheel hoeing and spring tine cultivating.
Although trial work is ongoing and project results are yet to be evaluated, a recent Farming Connect open day at the site offered other growers a valuable insight into weeding methods on a field scale.
Mr York, who grows a year-round supply of vegetables at the 10-acre site, said efficiency is key in any business and, for growers, weed control methods are integral to that.
“Hand hoeing is expensive, this trial has given us the opportunity to improve on our current practice by testing appropriate bits of kit that still weed efficiently,’’ he said.
It is understood to be the first time this model of hoe has been trialled in the UK on a market garden scale.
“We are always looking for methods of weeding that save time,’’ said Mr York, who was a retailer before he became a grower 20 years ago.
Weeds, he said, had to be removed at the ‘white hair’ stage. “When you see a weed you have caught it too late.’’
The Terrateck buries weeds as it is pushed along, smothering species like chickweed.
It is fitted with discs for mulching rows of vegetables or for precise weeding.
The two discs come up neatly against the rows of seedlings, part the earth beside the seedlings while removing the earth together with the weed plantlets that are right beside the crop.
The resulting weeding action is therefore very precise, says Delana Davies, Farming Connect arable and horticulture technical officer.
“It has the potential to markedly reduce the hours spent hand hoeing,’’ she said.
Time and labour cost comparisons, plus efficiency of weed control observations, are being evaluated.