By Nick Fone

Worcs farmer Jim Bullock has developed a system that should help to improve crop establishment in direct drilling conditions.

As a keen advocate of minimum tillage and direct sowing, he found establishment had suffered where the combine harvester had failed to spread straw and trash effectively.

“With old combines like ours it”s often the case that spreading mechanisms don”t work that well or aren”t there in the first place,” says Mr Bullock.

 “Trash would build up and push into the drill slot, making seedling growth difficult.”

 “On visits to Canada and France, I saw that farmers there had got round the problem by using harrows to spread the chopped straw before tackling their drilling.”

But he found the 7000-11,000 cost of importing such an implement prohibitive, so he set about knocking up his own version in the workshop.

The 6m harrow that resulted carries four banks of heavy “tickler” tines and, working at 90 degrees to the combine, it spreads crop residues evenly across the field.

 Since the initial prototype, he has further developed the harrow, introducing a degree of tine adjustment. This means its aggressiveness can be varied, widening its potential applications.

 “We”ve found that it can be used to prompt a shallow weed flush and at its most aggressive will lacerate the straw, providing a degree of incorporation for speedier residue breakdown,” says Mr Bullock.

 “We are now trialling it fitted with a seeder unit as an establishment tool for small seed crops such as rape. And it”s always going to have a use as a general purpose grass harrow.”

 Price for a 3m harrow is about 2000. A 6m hydraulically folding model costs 4500 and Mr Bullock is currently working on a front-mounted version for use in combination with a cultivator.

 fwmachinery@rbi.co.uk CAP: (Nick”s Pics/Jim Bullock Harrow 2.jpg)