THE first production version of the Garford Robocrop hoe was delivered last year to Honingham Thorpe Farms at Honingham, Norwich, Norfolk where the Alston family grows 486ha (1200 acres) of sugar beet.
Farms manager Hamish Farmer chose a 9m version to cover 18 rows of beet. There were some initial teething problems, but these were quickly sorted out and he is delighted with the performance of the drill and its guidance system.
Work rate can be up to 40ha (100 acres) and Mr Farmer is also impressed by the guidance systems ability to identify the rows, even in weedy areas. He says the accuracy has also exceeded his expectations with the result that, since the beginning of last season, the blade setting has been adjusted to work even closer to the rows.
The strategy this year will be to hoe the whole of the sugar beet acreage twice, with any problem areas receiving a third pass.
"I think this will allow us to achieve better weed control with the hoe, and that should mean that we can reduce the amount of herbicide we use on the sugar beet. It could give us some very useful cost savings," says Mr Farmer. *