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How to keep your vineyard tidy for tourists.

With a bit of luck, the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown will all stay on schedule and we’ll see tourists returning to vineyards across England in time for English Wine Week.

Following on from WineGB’s tourism conference on 2-4 March, I thought that this month it would be good to take a look at some of the machinery which can help you to keep grass, weeds and foliage under control so that your vineyard is always looking trim and tidy to make a good first impression.

Mechanical weed control

Non-chemical weed control remains one of hottest trends in the UK vineyard machinery world as growers focus on finding suitable alternative methods to glyphosate and other herbicides.

Mechanical under vine cultivators are, however, not a one-size-fits-all product and we’re always keen to ensure that growers find the right solution for their individual site and requirements. Modern systems can be incredibly sophisticated, so before choosing a make or model, growers need to think about what they are trying to achieve.

For organic growers, the system on offer from Clemens is robust and comprehensive. It may be one of the more premium options on the market but having been designed and built to suit growers who need to be able to do everything in just one pass, vineyard managers notice that it often does a more thorough job, with the effects then tending to last longer.

Interestingly, NIAB EMR is currently using Clemens in its research vineyard as part of its integrated weed management project called IWM PRAISE. Dr Julien Lecourt and his team are trying to develop an environmentally sustainable vineyard and have been using the Clemens machinery, alongside other methods, to investigate the effects of moving away from herbicide in the vineyard.

For estates who are looking to reduce their use of chemicals, the Braun Rollhacke finger weeder has been identified as one of the best options on the market. Instead of breaking the soil, it effectively moves through the earth making it more friable, light and fluffy. This creates an inhospitable environment for any weeds looking to establish themselves.

While there are lots of mechanical under vine cultivators on the market, the Braun is the weapon of choice for vineyard managers across the entire UK, having proven to be adaptable to different soil types. As long as the operator has considered the weather conditions and has taken time to gain a real understanding of exactly how their under-vine equipment works, as well as the adjustments which may be needed throughout the season.

Mowing

For those who are just looking to keep the vineyard and surrounding estate looking in tip top condition a mower may not kill weeds but is essential. Helping to keep growth under control, the range of compact mowers from Fischer benefit from a hydraulic sensing system meaning it can work around any age vines.

The Fischer GL4 is a rugged, robust compact blade mower with two arms which swing out horizontally. Two precision sensors with hydraulic precision control allow gentle and accurate mowing right up to the base of the trunk, avoiding the need for herbicides. Once the trunk or obstacles are detected, the hydraulic ram is triggered to retract the swing-wing and ensures clean mowing while being gentle around the vine.

The GL4 mower comes in a range of front- or rear-mounted configurations, with growers also able to opt for hydraulic side shift. The most popular machine is the rear-mounted GL4-T which comes with hydraulic precision sensors on both sides, grass chutes on both sides on the swing wings, mounted slide disks on the swing wings and height-adjustable wheel rollers.

The smaller GL4W / 45 / 60 mower is more suited to small vineyards or can be used in tabletop strawberry tunnels with tractors of 20 horsepower and up. One constant flow hydraulic service is required and a free flow return.

Canopy management

When it comes to trimming and defoliating vines, the range from ERO is a firm favourite, and is what our salesman Sam uses for all his contracting work.

The Elite vine trimmer provides cutting at high speeds, it’s easy to operate and has been designed for long life and reliability.

The uniquely shaped cutter blades are manufactured from high grade stainless steel with a special shape and deformed edge to ensure a surgical cut and suction of debris from the vines as well as reducing wire damage.

The ‘comfort’ joystick allows smooth, light-touch action and has a split control box to aid positioning in the cab. Only a single-acting control valve and a pressure-free return on the tractor are required.

These trimmers can be configured for all vineyards, whether small scale or large, with seven different cutting lengths, from 100 cm to 195 cm, available and options for single in row, double in row, single over row, double over row and tg skirting.

As standard, they are supplied with a double-acting lift frame on which other ERO products, such as the ERO Elite leaf stripper, can also be mounted.

By plucking the leaves gently from the vine without damaging fruit, these defoliators can be used from flowering all the way through to harvesting.

As well as keeping your vineyard looking tidy for tourists, good ventilation in the fruiting zone reduces the risk of botrytis and other fungal diseases, improves spray targeting and efficacy, and also increases exposure to sunlight.

Essential equipment to make orchard and vineyard spraying easy work.

When I ask growers what machinery they’re looking for at the moment, the majority say that they just want equipment which will make work easier.

One very simple piece of kit which does just that is our new generation sprayer controller, the SprayTrol. 

First tested by Nick Seymour in the UK, this combined spray rate controller and switch box was released onto farms in July 2015. As well as taking up minimal space in the tractor cab, these units have a multi line display for ease of reading relative information and for setting parameters.

There are a number of unique programmable features on the SprayTrol which have been designed to help make life easy for operators. For example, if forward speed drops below a certain level, or if the tank volume is running out, the booms can be programmed to switch off. 

The controller display head can also be programmed to work on different machines and will conveniently retain the information relative to those machines for future use. 

The SprayTrol will accept information from a flow sensor, pressure sensor, tank level sensor and speed sensor and can send information to a regulating valve and to boom control valves.

If you want to chat through the full specifications or want to know more about the SprayTrol, please do give me a call on 01580 712200.

Tom Wheatley, sales at NP Seymour

The best way to protect commercial fruit, vines and vegetable crops from frost.

Frost damage is devastating.

Smaller crops do not just mean fewer returns for growers; the economic impact goes far beyond the farm gate as it often means less for the pickers, the packhouses, the contract wineries, the packaging and labelling suppliers, and retailers too.

Last year vineyards across the UK experienced one of the worst frosts on record as temperatures dropped drastically during May, just when buds were at their most vulnerable.

Frostbuster

Frostbuster

One of the most effective ways of combatting frost is with a Frostbuster, which has been used by growers worldwide for many years and has won many awards for the way it has revolutionised top and soft fruit and vine frost protection. 

It has been proven to increase the temperature in the orchard, tunnel or vineyard, preventing the awful effects frost can have on the fruit bud. The machine works by burning gas to provide a heated air supply, which is then blown by a fan driven by the tractor across the orchard or into the end of a tunnel. By driving around the orchard, or vineyard, following a pre-determined route it is possible to protect an area of up to 8 hectares.

The Frostbuster allows growers to protect crops at sites where no water is available. It can be used not only during radiation frost but also during wind frost. Studies have been done to show that this machine can be used to improve fruit setting and it can also be used for drying fruit after rain to prevent splitting.

Frostguard

Frostguard

The Frostguard, a smaller, stationary version of the Frostbuster, was especially developed to be used in greenhouses, plastic tunnels and small vineyards and orchards. The petrol engine powered fan has an outlet to turn it around 360° continuously, which depending on the application, means it can protect an area of between 0.5 to 1.5 hectares.

If you’re going to invest in any form of frost protection, you need to make sure that it comes on at the right time. We have been working with Pessel for a number of years and have found their internet-based weather systems to be the most effective and reliable. 

How they work

Unlike other frost protection systems, the working principle is not based on raising the temperature above the critical values but on phase transition and by controlling the forming of hoarfrost which is the biggest enemy for flowers and buds. Without protection, the layer of hoarfrost will increase and finally cause damage to the plant by dehydration as the ice crystals extract energy and humidity from the buds and flowers. 

The Frostbuster and Frostguards from Agrofrost form a hot air stream every seven to 10 minutes, so part of the ice evaporates while the remaining ice gets energy from the passing air. The higher the humidity, the more energy that is transferred. This allows growers to protect crops with only a fraction of the energy input that is needed by other systems.

iMetos Ice

Frost alarms

iMetos ice is a remote weather station which can be installed in your most frost vulnerable area. Every 5-minutes it reads the temperature from both its dry and a wet bulb temperature sensor and every hour it records this accurate information and growers can set this to upload to the iMetos client database via its inbuilt cellular phone. All you need is a GPRS sim card and account.

All data collected can be reviewed online, and there is also a password protected site where you can set alarms for when it detects certain temperature levels. Within minutes of the alarm value being reached the telephone numbers that you set will be automatically rung. 

A major advantage of these weather stations is that they require very little energy and can be run for a long time on the integrated rechargeable storage battery, which is constantly recharged by solar cells. Even in periods of bad weather and in regions with little sunlight, the energy is sufficient to operate the device throughout the year without interruption. 

Soil moisture content, soil temperature and rainfall can also be added to the system to make this a universal recording station.

If you want to chat through the full specifications or want to know more about the Frostbuster, Frostguard or iMetos ice, please do give me a call on 01580 712200.

Tom Wheatley, sales at NP Seymour

Made to measure

Having worked at Hall Hunter for 27 years, Carl Eatwell has seen the family farming business evolve from a vegetable and root crop grower, with a small strawberry PYO, into a commercial multi-site operation, which exclusively grows soft fruit for the UK’s major supermarkets.
 
Today Hall Hunter’s soft fruit plantations extend to 700-acres, spilt across Berkshire and Surrey with Heathlands Farm, the original farm, located in Wokingham; Sheeplands Farm in Warbury, near Henley, and Tuesley Farm, just outside Godalming.
 
“While we focus on strawberries and blueberries, we do also grow raspberries and blackberries,” said Carl, who is based at Heathlands Farm. “Over the years, our growing methods have changed drastically. Around 17 years ago we moved from having the plants in the ground to table-top systems. Then, in the last five years we have adapted again and today all our strawberries are on a six line system which is much easier for harvesting and also gives us a much better class of fruit from the crop.”

Like many growers striving to be more accurate with spray coverage, when Carl started looking for a suitable system which would effectively target the underside of the leaf, he approached specialist fruit machinery dealership, NP Seymour.
 
“When buying a sprayer off the shelf, you are very limited, so we have been working very closely with Nick and his team for nearly two decades to get the best application methods for our crops,” said Carl. “Our first sprayers from NP Seymour were from Berthoud, but Nick customised the equipment to fit our needs with new arms and a different nozzle system. Then, around 10 years ago, NP Seymour designed and made our first custom sprayer to fit our eight line system and finally as we moved to the latest six line system, they helped us to redevelop our sprayers again.”
 
The bespoke table-top strawberry sprayers from NP Seymour are all air assisted, providing growers with the ability to spray the crops with more accuracy, better coverage and efficacy.
 
“All of our sprayers come with a sophisticated computer system which will constantly show the calibration and we are able to calculate, even within a few metres, where our spray products will run out. With this, our costs have been reduced greatly because there is no need to over mix products and there is no wastage,” said Carl. “Our sprayers also have in built wash tanks, which saves us a lot of time and there are also induction hoppers fitted so we can mix the products more safely and you are less likely to get blockages in the system when using certain products.”
 
As well as having its sprayers refurbished, with new arms and a new nozzle design, which the team at NP Seymour created, Hall Hunter also had a new custom-built sprayer delivered recently and those who follow NP Seymour on social media will also have seen that some of the table-top sprayers have been shipped to customers as far away as Sweden.

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How to find a table-top strawberry sprayer for your individual site and set-up.

This month we are shining a ‘Seymour’s spotlight’ on our bespoke range of table-top strawberry sprayers.

Did you know that Nick built his first made-to-measure table-top sprayer in 2005?

From his strong engineering background Nick has always been keen to ensure customers get exactly what they need. After he was approached by Gaskains, who were looking for a strawberry sprayer which could operate in the narrow-width alleys, he started designing and fabricating a bespoke air assisted sprayer.

NP Seymour’s table-top strawberry sprayers remain in high demand and are still produced by the team at our Avon Work’s site. We caught up with Carl Eatwell, spray operations manager at Hall Hunter, to get the ins and outs of why the soft fruit sector in the UK relies on these bespoke sprayers.

Having worked at Hall Hunter for 27 years, Carl Eatwell has seen the family farming business evolve from a vegetable and root crop grower, with a small strawberry PYO, into a commercial multi-site operation, which exclusively grows soft fruit for the UK’s major supermarkets.

Today Hall Hunter’s soft fruit plantations extend to 700-acres, spilt across Berkshire and Surrey with Heathlands Farm, the original farm, located in Wokingham; Sheeplands Farm in Warbury, near Henley, and Tuesley Farm, just outside Godalming.

“While we focus on strawberries and blueberries, we do also grow raspberries and blackberries,” said Carl, who is based at Heathlands Farm. “Over the years, our growing methods have changed drastically. Around 17 years ago we moved from having the plants in the ground to table-top systems. Then, in the last five years we have adapted again and today all our strawberries are on a six-line system which is much easier for harvesting and also gives us a much better class of fruit from the crop.”

While it is vital to embrace improved growing techniques, it does sometimes seem that what is considered ‘best practice’ in the UK fruit industry is forever changing at the drop of a hat. And for the fruit sector, drastic adaptations often result in new pieces of equipment being required.

“Big changes can happen in the fruit sector often within a short space of time, and I have known very different growing systems to be implemented within the space of a few years,” said Carl. “This means that we need our machinery and equipment, especially our sprayers, to be able to evolve and remain suitable, efficient and fit for purpose.”

On top of this, over the years, the varieties have changed too. Hall Hunter now grow Dute blueberries, Diamond Jubilee raspberries and June- and ever-bearing strawberries, such as Malling™ Centenary and Sweet Eve.

“With Malling™ Centenary, for instance, because it is a slightly earlier variety, we can crop twice, but this makes it even more important to ensure that we are looking after the plants, using the right products, spraying at the right times, with the best applications possible,” said Carl.

Like many growers striving to be more accurate with spray coverage, when Carl started looking for a suitable system which would effectively target the underside of the leaf, he approached specialist fruit machinery dealership, NP Seymour.

“When buying a sprayer off the shelf, you are very limited, so we have been working very closely with Nick and his team for nearly two decades to get the best application methods for our crops,” said Carl. “Our first sprayers from NP Seymour were from Berthoud, but Nick customised the equipment to fit our needs with new arms and a different nozzle system. Then, around 10 years ago, NP Seymour designed and made our first custom sprayer to fit our eight line system and finally as we moved to the latest six line system, they helped us to redevelop our sprayers again.”

The bespoke table-top strawberry sprayers from NP Seymour are all air assisted, providing growers with the ability to spray the crops with more accuracy, better coverage and efficacy.

“All of our sprayers come with a sophisticated computer system which will constantly show the calibration and we are able to calculate, even within a few metres, where our spray products will run out. With this, our costs have been reduced greatly because there is no need to over mix products and there is no wastage,” said Carl. “Our sprayers also have in built wash tanks, which saves us a lot of time and there are also induction hoppers fitted so we can mix the products more safely and you are less likely to get blockages in the system when using certain products.”

As well as having its sprayers refurbished, with new arms and a new nozzle design, which the team at NP Seymour created, Hall Hunter also had a new custom-built sprayer delivered recently and those who follow NP Seymour on social media will also have seen that some of the table-top sprayers have been shipped to customers as far away as Sweden.

“By working with ourselves and other growers, Nick has come up with a robust design which better covers the crop by bringing the spray in sideways through the canopy,” said Carl. “All the sprayers are ‘overly engineered’ and the build quality is exceptional. Everything is galvanised and we have never had a mechanical fault and have only ever had to do routine maintenance.

“I have been lucky enough to go down to the workshop at Avon Works several times now to follow the progress of the sprayers being built. Nick is an absolutely fantastic guy to work with and the whole team has always been very accommodating and if we wanted something tweaked, they have been very happy to make changes.

“We were also invited to visit before the sprayers were delivered, so we could make sure that everything was how we wanted it. And when they delivered, someone was onsite to run through the machine and made sure that it was set up exactly, making adjustments here and there to suit the individual farm’s needs. We really couldn’t ask for much more in the way of service, it is just fantastic.”

Hall Hunter also has an air assisted tower sprayer for the cane and bush fruit which was carefully modified by NP Seymour. The farm had very specific requirements and the sprayer needed to be as narrow as possible, so Nick visited the site to measure the tunnel system before building something made to measure. Years later, as the crop developed and plants became much larger, the sprayer was sent back to NP Seymour’s Avon Works to be refurbished again.

“It is always great to see Nick in person, not just because it’s nice to be able to speak to the company owner, but because you get to see the gentleman who is still very much hands on in regards to the engineering,” said Carl. “You simply can’t beat the level of service NP Seymour provides. It is easy to talk to some over the phone, but to see them in person, to do rough sketches with them and see them turn those drawings into a machine is very good. I have enjoyed being able to see the sprayers being developed; watching them go from parts and bare metal to being welded together, the tank being put on, and finally the end installation. The team are very happy for you to go and see where they are up to and the fact that they are so hands on with growers means that we as a customer get exactly what we need.”

If you want more information, please do give the sales team a call on 01580 712200.

How to apply fertiliser efficiently in vineyards and orchards.

For those looking to improve plant health, yields and thus profitability, while keeping potential input costs to a minimum, the ability to apply fertiliser only where it is really needed is pretty useful.  

If you’ve invested in detailed soil analysis and your agronomist has been in to map your site, it’s now time to look at the equipment which can make the most of this information. 

The first thing you will need is a robust and efficient variable rate spreader which can apply different rates of fertiliser on the move and without requiring any physical adjustment of the machine.

We’ve been supplying fruit and vine growers with KRM L15 spreaders for many years now, as it is the only specialist, narrow spreader which provides a true variable spreading rate, by using the tractor’s wheel speed sensor. This also means that it can be used with tractors of any age and growers don’t have to worry about the tractor’s GPS or Isobus capabilities. 

Not having your spreader’s output linked to the revs or PTO speed, makes for much more even distribution, even on the steepest sloping sites. And as everything on the KRM is electronic there is less hydraulic or manual adjustments for the operator to make. Pretty much all arable spreaders come with this variable rate technology nowadays, so why should the fruit market be left behind? 

For growers who have had their sites mapped, one of the great things about the KRM is the ability to connect up the KRM Icon control and Patchwork BlackBox Advance, which includes built-in Global Navigation Satellite System, GPS, terrain compensation, an onboard modem, headland control and headland warning.

With advanced recording capabilities the BlackBox Advance tablet can save all your maps, jobs, A-B lines and allows operators to store multiple paused jobs too. It is essential for any grower who wants to ensure that they are only applying what is needed, exactly where it is needed.

One of the latest features which the KRM is now known for is how easy it is to clean. Spreaders can rust in a matter of days if they’re not looked after properly, and having listened to customer feedback about how challenging it can be to clean some spreader, KRM made a number of upgrades to its machines making them easier to access and more practical to clean and maintain. 

If you want to chat through the full specifications or want to know more about the KRM spreaders, please do give me a call on 01580 712200.

Tom Wheatley, sales at NP Seymour

Just delivered: Fruit-tec ‘Edward’ mechanical pruning saw

In January 2021 we delivered a Fruit-tec ‘Edward’ mechanical pruning saw to the team at Boxford (Suffolk) Farms.

Keen newsletter readers may recall that Boxford Farms took delivery of the UK’s first Fruit-tec REDpulse Duo defoliator last year, which you can read more about here >>>

The Fruit-tec mechanical pruning saw, which has been specifically designed for use in orchards, fits onto the same frame as the REDpulse Duo, as well as Fruit-tec’s popular Darwin mechanical blossom thinner.

In addition to its unobstructed forward view, the mechanical pruner also benefits from an automatic pivoting feature which prevents the horizontal cutting bar from hitting posts, or hail protection nets. The double blade system and carefully designed blades also ensure the high cutting quality needed to prevent diseases and parasites, such as aphids.

Fruit Tec’s Edward, Darwin and RedPulseDuo provide the ideal equipment combination for orchards looking to reduction of labour costs, while increasing yield, fruit quality, uniform ripening and improved colouration. 

Is your sprayer really suited to your site?

The wet start to the 2020 growing season has left many farmers and growers battling challenging ground conditions.
 
Based at Rumwood Green Farm in Langley, Kent, Charltons is a fourth-generation family fruit business growing apples, strawberries and cherries on approximately 445 hectares, across 11 sites, all located within a 5-mile radius.
 
This year, the relentless rain meant that Charltons particularly struggled with one of its steepest sloping sites; finding it impossible to drive their trailed sprayer on the persistently wet ground.
 
Following a conversation with Nick, we were able to deliver a mounted OCLL CarraroSpray APUS5 within a matter of days – helping them to get back on track with their early season spray programme.
 
This air blast sprayer, which has a small tower for spraying horizontally or vertically, is specifically designed for use in compact spaces and on sloping ground where there is minimal room for manoeuvre.
 
Particularly in Kent, we find that a lot of our fruit customers have orchards planted on sites with steep gradients and heavy soils. Having a mounted sprayer alongside a trailed option is the only way to guarantee that sprayer-operators can get out in the spring, when the orchard floor is exceptionally slippery and problematic.
 
As machinery technology changes year-on-year, you may be surprised at how many sprayer options are now available. Orchards too are forever evolving and so, even if you haven’t experienced any ground related issues this season, it is always worth assessing whether your sprayer is best suited to your orchard system.

Opening up the canopy

We’re currently seeing an increased demand for mechanical deleafers as vineyard managers look for more cost effective ways to open up the canopy, increasing sunlight exposure and air circulation. 
 
Unlike other defoliators which use what’s known as an air blast system, the ERO leaf stripper, which Sam uses for his vineyard management contract work, has two rotating rollers and a fan which effectively plucks leaves from the vines. 
 
While air blast systems are limited for use between flowering and berry formation, and then right before harvest, the ERO’s ‘suck and pluck’ can be used at any time from flowering right through to harvest.
 
We’ve found that this gives vineyard managers a bit more freedom and flexibility when it comes to planning leaf stripping into the schedule. Also, by taking away the jets of air, leaves and debris are not blown into the canopy, which avoids any risk of disease
 
On average it costs £350 per acre for a team of labourers to leaf strip one side of the vines by hand. In comparison, the ERO can be configured in a single- or double-sided set up, which is then capable of doing 0.5ha or 1ha per hour respectively. The single-sided option can also rotate so that it is possible to just defoliate the east-facing side of the vines. Just looking at the figures alone it’s not difficult to see why they’re becoming increasingly popular.

If you want to chat through the various options and what would be most suitable for your site, please do just give me a call on 01580 712200.

Tom Wheatley, sales at NP Seymour