3 July 1998

No sprays – but tall weeds are done to death

IN terms of agricultural events, the Highland Show, with its mixture of traditional "tartan" events and displays of modern machinery, must count as one of the nations true farmer shows.

And for the machinery enthusiast, the Highland presented numerous opportunities to study the latest batch of new developments on display of which there were several.

Perhaps one of the more innovative machines was to be found on the Alvan Blanch stand – not so much down to its mass appeal, but more to the reasoning and extensive development work which such a machine has undoubtedly demanded.

The machine is a weed puller – the Eco-Puller – and its primary role is to help eradicate ragwort, the potentially lethal pasture weed, in areas where agrochemical treatment cannot be used. Other tall weeds controlled include the spear and creeping thistle, nettle, dock and bracken.

A result of collaboration between English Nature and the Royal Agricultural College, and developed and manufactured by Alvan Blanch, the machine comprises four parts.

Operated in an offset position, a 1.5m (5ft) wide slatted conveyor-type belt raised at the font and sloping rearwards to the ground bends the weeds forwards and presents the stems in this position to two contra- rotating rubber rollers. These grip the stems and pull the plants, roots and all, out of the ground.

Once lifted, the weeds are deposited on to a conveyor which places them in a hopper positioned at the rear of the machine for later disposal.

Drives throughout the machine are mechanical – although the original machine employed hydraulic motors. Operating speed is clearly critical to ensure the speeds of the front plant positioning belt is moving slightly faster than forward speed. Alvan Blanch says a speed of about 5kph would be normal in most conditions.

A degree of planning is required to obtain the best results from the Eco-Puller. Grass should be closely grazed and weeds pulled when they achieve maximum height but before seeding occurs.

Development work continues and it is generally conceded that the full potential of the machine has not yet been fully realised. Price of the Eco-Puller, which has a working width of 1.5m, is about £9000.

The Royal Highland Show – Scotlands premier agricultural

event – lived up to expectations and, for those touring the

machinery lines, possibly more. Andy Collings reports

Pull, dont spray. Alvan Blanchs Eco-Puller is designed to remove tall weeds, such as ragwort and thistles, from pastures where chemical control is not possible.