19 January 2001

Inter-row hoeing helps keep chemicals use low

This years show season

kicked off with Denmarks

Agromek exhibition. Held in

Herning, 580 exhibitors

representing more than 1300

companies presented their

latest wares to the host

nation. Andy Collings reports

EXCESSIVE use of chemicals in agriculture is frowned upon in Denmark; indeed, there is legislation to ensure over-reliance on pesticides does not occur.

Hence the countrys increasing interest in refining inter-row hoeing and the introduction of automatic steering systems which can make such operations viable.

Last year, it was Eco-Dan which launched a guidance system for implements working in row crops. Cameras continually photograph plants at a rate of 25 images/sec and a computer is used to convert these images into a reference line – checking the position of the implement in relation to this reference line. Signals sent to a hydraulic system make physical movements to the implement to keep it on line.

Eco-Dan says its Advanced Tool Control (ATC) system is now commercially available. In the UK it can be obtained through Lincs-based importer Tony Deptford.

But there are other systems nearing completion. F Poulsen Engineerings design has been three years in development and comprises four main parts.

First, a computer and camera unit is positioned directly above one row. The camera, with its pneumatically cleaned lens senses the position of the row of plants by scanning across the rows at a rate of 1000 scans/sec. Software then calculates the position of the row and also calculates the correction required for the steering wheels.

The next element – the hydraulic proportional valve – controls either the tractors auto steering system or the steering wheels of the implement.

A fourth element to the system enables crops to be inter-row cultivated before they emerge.

Accuracy is claimed to be  2cm and operating speeds more than 10kph. Kit prices start at about £1800. &#42

Automated steering for inter-row operations. Denmarks Poulsen Engineering is the latest contender for this possibly lucrative development.