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Technology makes a step change in productivity and competitiveness.

This year, we will be showcasing two key pieces of machinery on our stand at the National Fruit Show (being held on 20 and 21 October at Kent County Showground) which promise to make a “step change in productivity and competitiveness”.

Having supplied the UK’s first REDpulse Duo orchard defoliator to Boxford (Suffolk) Farms in August 2020, we have since delivered another machine to Adrian Scripps in Kent and have also invested in our own demo unit which has been trialled with impressive results so far this season.

Developed by Fruit-tec, who many of you will know as the makers of the Darwin mechanical blossom thinner, in partnership with ERO, who produce a range of vineyard trimmers and defoliators, the pneumatic REDpulse Duo emits a high frequency pulsating air stream to remove leaves covering apples.

“Having reviewed the trial data from Boxford (Suffolk) Farms and seen the defoliator in action, we believe the REDpulse to be one of the best ways UK growers can aerate fruit, allowing for more sunlight to penetrate through the canopy to the fruit, which in turn increases colouration and makes picking easier,” said Claire Seymour, director at NP Seymour.

Those visiting our stand at the show will also be able to see the new PODS precision sprayer system, which has come from a three year Innovate UK research project aiming to improve economic performance of orchards.

“While current practice is to spray whole orchards at the same dose regardless of tree structure or crop load, the variable rate sprayer we have helped to developed in partnership with Hutchinsons, the Acclaimed Software Company, Outfield Technologies, Plumford Farms, Worldwide Fruit and NIAB, will apply an exact dose tree-by-tree,” said Claire. “It is this targeted approach which will allow growers to significantly reduce chemical costs while also increasing production and quality.”

For more information, visit the NP Seymour stand K32 at the National Fruit Show on 20 and 21 October 2021.

Can orchard defoliators increase the number of apples in the first pick and does allowing more sunlight really improve colouration?

Last August we were excited to deliver the UK’s first REDpulse Duo orchard defoliator to Boxford (Suffolk) Farms.

Developed by Fruit-tec, who many of you will know as the makers of the Darwin mechanical blossom thinner, in partnership with ERO, who produce a range of vineyard trimmers and defoliators, the pneumatic REDpulse Duo emits a high frequency pulsating air stream to remove leaves from the middle to lower half of the tree. This in turn helps to aerate fruit and allows for more sunlight to penetrate through the canopy to the fruit, increasing colouration and making picking easier.

Shortly after we’d delivered the REDpulse Duo to Boxford (Suffolk) Farms, farm manager Peter Kemp spoke to us about why he chose the machine and explained that the farm would be conducting several trials on the 110-hectare top fruit farm, having left an empty row in each orchard so they could compare fruit colour side-by-side. You can click here to read the article from last year.

A few weeks ago, we caught up with Peter to run through the results of these trials and find out how the REDpulse Duo had performed.

“We initially used the REDpulse on most of our Gala and just trialled it on some other varieties, like Braeburn, Cox and Daliclass,” said Peter. “It’s incredibly important to get the timing right, and from an operator’s point of view, you do have to drive relatively close to the trees, so you do have to be really alert and awake when you’re using it. Apart from that there have been no problems at all, and it’s not complicated to use.”

An initial assessment was conducted on the apples in Transplant South, looking at the difference between the treated and untreated rows 10 days after the REDpulse Duo had been used. The results of this showed that 20 apples on the treated rows averaged 45% colour, compared to 20 apples on the untreated row which averaged 32% colour – overall an increase of 13% colour.

A second assessment was conducted over 25 random trees in Transplant South a month after the REDpulse Duo had been used, after the first pick of Gala. These results showed that there were significantly more apples left on the untreated trees, with an overall average of 6 apples per tree being picked in the first pick on the treated trees. There was also significantly more colour on the remaining apples on the treated trees than the untreated, with the overall average colour being 8% higher on the treated trees.

Timings:

Treatment with the REDpulse Duo: 28/08/20

Initial Assessment: 7/09/20

Second Assessment: 28/09/20

From a figures point of view, based on the results which indicated that an average of six extra apples were picked per tree in the first pick, with 12,647 trees in Transplant South, that equates to 75,882 more apples picked.

Using the grading data from last year, the average weight of the Gala apples was 0.164kg, which is 12,445kg in total. Using the approx. price of 65p per kg, this added up to £8,089.25 extra for the first pick.

“Not only did it make the first pick better, but there was also a noticeable improvement in colouration on the second pick as well,” said Peter. “We were not expecting it to make quite as much difference as it did, but I was very surprised and happy to see the results. This year we are hoping to improve on these results and will be doing some more trials with it, particularly as we are now more confident using the machine.”

Like last year, the team will be looking to start using it around 6 weeks before the start of harvest and will focus the machine on the middle of the 3-metre trees, to remove the leaves from the fruit zone and expose the apples to the sun.

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

How to protect your tractors and machinery from theft.

Did you know that CESAR marking of agricultural machinery has contributed to a 60% decline in thefts since the scheme was launched in 2007?

That’s 60% fewer farmers put to the inconvenience of coping without the equipment they need, often at busy times of the year like harvest, never mind the cost and time of replacing the lost machine.

We’re now registered as a certified CESAR dealership and can provide and fit the state-of-the-art Datatag ID technology to new and existing tractors, as well as all types of self-propelled and trailer-mounted equipment.

The sophisticated multi-layered security system basically gives each machine its own unique ‘fingerprint’, which is impossible for thieves to remove. The Datatag security is made up of various elements, both visible to act as a deterrent and covert to aid identification and recovery.

Firstly, there’s a number of tamper-proof registration plates that are securely fitted to the machine’s chassis. A number of Datatag RFID transponders, each the size of a grain of rice, are hidden in the machinery, each with its own unique programmed code. The machine also has patches of chemical forensic liquid Datatag DNA painted on it, which has microscopic Datatag Datadots® suspended in it that are barely visible to the eye.

It’s literally impossible for thieves to remove all the tell tail identification traces from a CESAR registered machine.

Many of you will recognise the triangular CESAR registration plate which now acts as a significant deterrent against theft. Thieves don’t like risking themselves unnecessarily and would rather steal an unmarked tractor than one protected by the police-approved CESAR scheme.

Its almost unbeatable layers of security marking technologies also make it an invaluable aid to recovery, with CESAR marked machines more than twice as likely to be recovered as unmarked equipment. Hence why all major insurance companies offer discounts of up to 20% on premiums and reduced excesses for cover on CESAR-marked machines.

There is a secure and dedicated 24/7 UK secure contact centre and strong links with the Police, to ensure that details of stolen machinery can be circulated quickly, improving the chances of recovery.

One of the best things about the scheme is that there are no annual fees, just a one-off fee for the marking and registering your equipment for life. The cost of having CESAR registration fitted is easily recouped within a couple of years by reducing insurance premiums and excesses, yet the benefits remain for the life of your ownership of that machine.

If you want to chat through in more detail or want to book in to have your tractor fitted with CESAR technology, please do give me a call on 01580 712200.

Tom Wheatley, sales at NP Seymour

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

Preparing for pruning season

With the winter pruning season just around the corner, we thought it was time to revisit some of the updates Felco made to its range earlier this year.

As the UK’s official sales and service centre for the electronic and pneumatic secateurs manufacture, we’ve been providing fruit growers and viticulturists with Felco’s wide range of secateurs, holsters, saws and diamond coated sharpeners for nearly a decade.

“Felco are renowned for its secateurs; they’re a premium brand and widely used across by UK viticulturists already,” said Claire Seymour.

While Felco only released its new generation of professional electric pruning shears, the Power Blade series last year, the Swiss manufacture has spent the last few months upgrading the range even further.

So, what’s new?

Well, for a start, the blades are better. Made from special high-speed steel, the XPro blades, which now feature on the Power Blade pruning shears, have been put through an additional hardening process to provide consistent pruning, cleaner cuts, and a longer blade life compared to conventional steel. The blade, which also requires less sharpening, has been tested against competitors and came out by far the strongest option on the market.

Favoured by everyone from vineyard owners, to self-employed pruners, contractors and vineyard staff, the Felco Power Blade XPro range is made up of four different models of electric pruning secateurs including:

  • the 802 and left-handed version 802G, capable of cutting up to 30mm;
  • the 812 for pruning up to 35mm;
  • and the heavy-duty 822 designed for making large, powerful cuts of up to 45mm.

Bluetooth connectivity

Those out in the vineyard will be able to take advantage of the new carrying system too, as all models come with a Power Pack 882. Bringing pruning into the 21st century, the Power Blades have also been fitted with Bluetooth connectivity enabling the shears to talk to the operator’s smartphone or tablet. After installing the new Felco app, operators can adjust the semi-opening and activate holster mode. There is also a ‘dashboard’ that shows tool performance data such as the number of cuts, battery life, time of usage and cut size statistics.

“It even tells you when your next service is required, the working condition of your tool, and whether it’s still in warranty,” said Claire. “As the area of vines in the country continues to increase at a rapid pace, the Felco electronic secateurs are proving to be increasingly popular. With more pruning to be done, many pruners have already discovered the benefits of switching over to electronic secateurs and these new models further help pruners to speed up the job and cover more vines in a day.”

English wine producers agree that mechanical grape harvesters are a no brainer for still wine varieties

We were delighted to welcome over 20 leading vineyard managers and winemakers from across the South East to a special machinery demonstration day we held with vineyard contractors SJ Barnes at a vineyard on the Kent / East Sussex border on Friday 8 October.

From 10am till 2pm, still and sparkling English wine producers were able to see one of SJ Barnes’ Pellenc Grapes Line 80 mechanical grape harvesters in action as it navigated the rows of Bacchus.

“One of the best things about the Pellenc Grapes Line is its suitability for our vineyards here in the UK,” said Sam Barnes, founder of SJ Barnes and specialist vineyard sales advisor at NP Seymour. “Because it is a trailed machine, equipped with a hydraulic tow bar for better manoeuvrability, it can cope with the tight headlands we normally see in vineyards which have been planted with hand harvesting in mind.”

Those attending the demonstration were also invited to stand on the top platform to see how the Pellenc’s sorting table carefully removes unwanted matter (MOG) and diseased fruit on the go, before then being able to inspect what the harvester had loaded into the dolavs.

“The Pellenc is far more selective compared to any of the other mechanical harvesters I have used,” said Sam, who travelled to New Zealand to research the different makes and models back in 2019.

“The sorting table really is very effective at ensuring only the best sample of fruit ends up in the bins as, unlike other machine harvesters, you are not just relying on a de-stemmer and some fans to remove leaves and debris. It also has a much gentler cleaning method, which will be important for those looking to use mechanically harvested fruit for sparkling wine production.”

Over the demonstration day, the consensus among vineyard managers and winemakers was that mechanical harvesting was going to be a necessity for the future, particularly if the labour shortages continue.

“For still wine varieties, mechanical harvesting seems to be a no brainer,” said Claire Seymour, sales and marketing director at NP Seymour, the UK’s importer and distributor for Pellenc mechanical harvesters. “I spoke to at least one winemaker who is looking at mechanically harvesting all their Bacchus and is planning to adapt their winery receiving line so that they can use lorries instead of bins.”

Demand is certainly increasing for machine harvesting solutions in the UK. With almost 200Ha booked in for the 2021 season, this year SJ Barnes had to invest in a second Grapes Line 80 to ensure that the contracting company could fulfil growers’ needs.

“Anyone with over 60Ha would find it justifiable to invest in their own Pellenc,” said Sam. “But it is not just about buying the equipment; you need to ensure that you have a skilled operator to drive it and the infrastructure in place to cope with the logistics.”

If you would like to see the machine in action, we are still offering demonstration opportunities and those attending the Vineyard and Winery Show will also be able to see one of the Grapes Line machines on NP Seymour and SJ Barnes’ joint stand.

Precision Fruit Tree Dosing to Optimise Yield and Quality

We were extremely proud and excited to be involved in the first wet trials of the PODS precision sprayer system, which took place on Tuesday 18 May at Plumford Farm in Faversham.

As all growers know, there is often significant tree-to-tree variability in orchards, with different tree structures (size, density), crop loads and quality often being linked to less than optimal, often poor, overall yield and quality.

This PODS precision sprayer system is the culmination of a 3 year Innovate UK research project which was set up to develop a precision dosing orchard foliar spraying system to improve the uniformity of orchards and greatly increase their economic performance.

While current practice is to spray whole orchards at the same dose regardless of tree structure or crop load, the equipment we have helped to developed will apply precision doses according to need to optimise performance.

We chose to use the KWH three-row sprayer because of the layout of the tower, which gave a nice base to work on having been carefully designed for modern orchard growing systems.

The variable rate sprayer, which was applying Brevis fruitlet thinner in the trial run, applies an exact dose tree-by-tree. It is able to apply different rates at different heights of the tree too and it is this attention to detail and targeted approach which will allow growers to significantly reduce chemical costs while also increasing production and quality.

Trials are currently focused on apples, but once ready, growers will be able to use the technology to apply crop protection and crop management sprays on a wide range of fruit trees.

It is hoped that this new technology will have a lasting impact on the UK apple industry, making a step change in productivity and competitiveness.

This is the first of two demonstrations being carried out this season and we are looking forward to continuing to work with Hutchinsons, the Acclaimed Software Company, Outfield Technologies, Plumford Farms, Worldwide Fruit and NIAB on this exciting project.

A road trip to see soft fruit growers in Scotland.

Last week, Claire bravely let me leave the office and drive some 11 hours north to see our customers in Scotland.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to a bunch of fruit growers, but there’s a really thriving, well established soft fruit industry located around Perthshire and Aberdeenshire.

While Scottish growers are susceptible to harsher frosts and a shorter growing season, which normally lasts from May to September, they are still achieving good yields.

As well as popping in to see customers just to touch base, check their blackcurrant and strawberry sprayers over and arrange for any parts to be delivered, the main reason for the trip was to set up and check over some new pieces of kit which had been delivered before I arrived.

On the frost front, I went to see Castleton Fruit Farm in Kincardineshire who have had another AgroFrost Frost Buster from us. In fact, they’ve now got five Frost Guards and this is their third Frost Buster. I just called in to make sure everything had turned up all right and that they were happy with it.

On the sprayer side of things, the team in the workshop had manufactured two bespoke units, one herbicide sprayer and one raspberry sprayer.

The herbicide sprayer for Alanhill Farming in Fife was a hydraulic, galvanised boom system with Micron sprayer heads designed to fit onto one of their existing tanks.

The high volume Micron sprayers included two fan nozzles and were covered by flexible polyethene hoods which not only stop drift but will also rotate if they touch any of the strawberry bushes.

In Blairgowrie, Bruce Farms had taken delivery of a Win’Air which the workshop had carefully adapted for use in their raspberry polytunnels. I went along on a day they were using it to make sure it was all working correctly and that it fit within their system.

The workshop is well accustomed to tweaking different sprayers to better suit the specialist crops and modern planting systems our growers use.

The Berthoud Win’Air sprayer was deemed the most suitable as it needed the least modification. It was already an over the row sprayer, so it was just a case of reducing the height, to ensure that it would fit into a tunnel and the workshop also removed one of the dropdown legs on each side, as only two rows need spraying at once.

It is a lot easier and quicker to adapt an already-existing sprayer than it is to build booms and nozzle outlets from scratch that’s for sure!

I hope you all have a good Easter break and are getting all geared up for this year’s season.

As always, if there’s anything tractor or machinery-related we can help with, please do give the sales team a call on 01580 712200.

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.