4 December 1998

Flexible tines challenge the chain harrow

THE position of the traditional chain harrow as the most popular pasture maintenance implement is being challenged by a growing number of flexible tine harrows – several of which put in first-time appearances at the Smithfield Show.

The modern version of this simple implement – formed with a large number of slim flexible steel tines on a rigid or flexing frame – originated in Austria for weed control in cereal and other crops grown organically or with the minimum of pesticides.

But UK grassland farmers have recognised its potential for working pastures. Main applications include levelling and spreading cow pats and mole hills, breaking up the soil surface for improved root aeration, and ripping out dead material. With a simple seed box added, growers are also finding the machines provide a cheap but effective means of bolstering tired swards with a top-up of fresh growth.

"Its an old idea really," says Richard Burman, of Twose, Tiverton. "We had one on the drawing board years ago but it never went into production."

A new version is now being built at the companys works in Devon, however, and made its debut at Smithfield. Like others of its type, the Twose Spring Tine Harrow has a light folding frame with a dense array of vibrating tines. But because the tines are clamped rather than bolted to the frames, users can choose the density of tines that best suits their needs.

"Most implements offer a choice of 32 or 40 tines per metre; we can offer both," says Mr Burman.

On the Parmiter Spring Harrow, tine angle is adjustable by moving a central lever on each section. That alters how aggressively the tines work. Buyers can also choose between two tine thicknesses – 7mm for light working, 8mm where a heavier duty action is preferred.

"Although we still believe the traditional chain link harrow will remain popular for a long time to come, the flexible tine implement clearly has a place," says Parmiters Stuart Mullins.

Parmiter and Twose offer their implements in four sizes from 3m to 6m (9ft 10in to 20ft). First-time Smithfield exhibitor Quantock Farm Machinery, based near Taunton, Somerset, goes wider with six sizes up to 12m (40ft). It also has a choice of tine sizes.