The new Claydon Inter-Row Hoe provides an effective method of controlling weeds in combinable crops which have been band sown using a Claydon Hybrid drill. Developed to help growers enhance levels of weed control, counteract reductions in the efficacy of some current herbicides and reduce input costs, it has been thoroughly prototyped on the Claydon family’s own farms over the last two seasons and is currently undergoing final testing before being launched later this year.
Providing a valuable additional weapon in the agricultural industry’s weed control armoury, the Claydon Inter-Row Hoe represents a further significant advantage in favour of the Claydon Opti-Till System, a progressive, more ecological and financially sustainable method of establishing combinable crops than traditional plough and min-till-based techniques, according to Oliver Claydon, the company’s Operations Director. He states:
“The overall application of herbicides has for many years provided efficient, cost-effective weed control in combinable crops, but with some products now becoming less reliable, less effective and much more expensive that situation is changing rapidly. The potential loss of glyphosate is also of great concern to farmers and requires alternative methods to be developed.
“Blackgrass, for example, is a by-product of modern farming systems, regardless of which establishment method is used, and over the last few years it has become increasingly resistant to current herbicides. Some growers are already spending £40/ha on a product that in some cases is only 50 per cent effective, or even less where they have resistant weeds. With no new chemistry on the horizon it was important for us, as a leader in the field of crop establishment, to develop a method to improve weed control and further reduce growers’ input costs.
“Inter-Row hoeing has long been used in row crops such as sugar beet but has not been possible in cereals which are drilled in conventional 125mm rows. Band sowing at 300mm leaves a 14cm -15cm-wide unseeded strip between the rows which can be mechanically hoed, providing an opportunity to eliminate weeds from that area easily, reliably, safely, cost-effectively and in a more environmentally-sensitive way.
“Trials of the Claydon Inter-Row Hoe on our own farm, in conjunction with the use of herbicides, have proved that the unit will pay for itself quickly through reductions in grass weeds and improved crop yields, drastically lower the potential for carry-over of weed seeds and reduce the risk of development of more resistant types. The unit will give years of reliable service, has very low operating costs and offers great flexibility.
“On the Claydon farms we have remained on top of weed issues by increasing the area of spring crops and using our Opti-Till System, which includes the Claydon Straw Harrow and Claydon TerraStar® light cultivator, to achieve high levels of weed germination and control between harvest and drilling with the Claydon Hybrid. We then use the Claydon Inter-Row Hoe to keep the areas between the rows clear of weeds during the early stages of crop growth and selectively reduce the weed burden in areas if there is an issue. This also has the effect of clearing up any weeds that were missed by the ag-chems, or where such products cannot be used, greatly reducing the return of weed seeds and the overall weed burden.
“The routine use of Claydon Opti-Till to establish crops over the last 15 years has left the soil in such good condition that it easily supports the weight of machinery such as a tractor equipped with an Inter-Row Hoe, even early in the season. Where appropriate, there is the possibility of using it to take out the first flush of weeds in the autumn, reducing the number which the ag-chems have to control. To further improve weed control and increase crop competition within the row we are also experimenting with the use of slightly higher seed rates to produce very high plant counts within the seeded bands and crowd out weeds from that area, increasing and enhancing the effect of any ag-chem products that might be used.”
Designed for use on any tractor with a Cat II front linkage, at speeds of approximately 6 km/h and up to 20mm deep, the Claydon Inter-Row Hoe is manually steered and can be used whenever soil conditions allow, covering up to 40ha a day with a 6m unit. On farms that drill early, crops may be sufficiently well developed in the autumn to start using the technique then, and in the spring the operation can continue whenever soil conditions allow, up to the stage where the crop might be compromised by further passes.
“The Claydon Inter-Row Hoe can be used whenever the opportunity arises and enables very closely targeted weed control measures to be implemented very flexibly,” Oliver Claydon adds. “On the Claydon farm we have been trialling a 6m version, which has been used with our smallest tractor, a 177hp Claas Axion 640 on 600-section tyres, because long-term use of the Claydon Opti-Till establishment system has left the fields level and well-structured so that they can easily support the weight of following machinery. This enables field operations to start in early spring if required without the need for expensive specialist tyre and wheel equipment.”
Following two years of evaluation, Claydon are conducting final trials with a 6m model this season and plan to introduce a range of models to match the width of the company’s range of drills later this year.