Hunter Tractor Centre

Vineyard weeds ­ just a bad memory.

The curse of every grape grower - pesky weeds that grow rampantly under the vines just out of reach of the plough and slasher ­ removed in the past only by numerous weedicide applications or the hard labour of a traditional cut-off plough.

But for one Hunter Valley vigneron, Joes Jones, Kurrajong Vineyard, Pokolbin, those weeds are now just a bad memory thanks to an innovative, Italian made, Rinieri automatic weeder and cultivator.

The new machine, found after a long search, has slashed labour and weedicide costs in the vineyard through its ability to easily and quickly remove all the weeds along the vine plantings.

Where the manually operated cut-off plough worked at 1.5km/hour the new machine can work at 3.5km/hr when performing the cutting-off operation (removing the weeds and soil) and it races at 5-6km/hr when putting-on the soil.

This weeding and soil aeration process at Kurrajong Vineyard now takes far less time, is less fatiguing and the weed removal, even in thick infestations, is far superior than the old method.

To control the weeds after the using the traditional cut-off plough Mr Jones still had to apply at least four weedicide applications. With the new machine he expects, at most, to have two weedicide applications, one during the dormant stage and another during the growing season.

 

³Who knows these two applications may be reduced to just one ­ the automatic plough is doing such a great job. If that is the case I have cut my operating costs even further², he said.

Kurrajong Vineyard has 12 hectares under grapes and Mr Jones also manages several other local vineyards. He began his search of a better weed control method several years ago after becoming concerned about the increasing use of the weedicides and the sheer hard work of operating the manual cut-off plough.

³I used the traditional cut-off plough for five years ­ it was time consuming and mentally and physically fatiguing work², Mr Jones said.

³These ploughs work best on a ROPS tractor and that meant being out in foul weather working the vineyard plus we had to have a cab tractor for spraying a ROPS model for the plough²

I wanted a machine that was fully automatic, that had minimal impact on the vines and the soil and one that allowed the operator to control it with ease from inside the tractor cabin.²

Having trailed several models Mr Jones has settled on the Rinieri automatic retracting cultivator and weeder. The machine imported by Antonio Carraro Oceania was supplied by Hunter Tractor Centre Pty Ltd.

The plough which is mid-mounted on a Lamborghini 775F cab tractor will be used during the dormant and the growing season. During winter a complete clean out of the vineyards will performed taking off and putting on the soil. During summer a cut-off knife attachment will be used to literally cut-off weeds under the vines.

A trigger sensor on the machine automatically retracts the plough once it nears the vine stem.

According to Mr Jones unlike competing units the Rinieri works even in first year vines ­ running slowly along the vines the trigger is activated even by these small stems.

An override button in the cab can be used by the operator should the machine fail to retract.

Mr Jones said he would only recommend used the mid-mount and a Rinieri front mounted machine because of their ease of operation.

³I trailed a rear mounted machine but it was too hard, especially in young vines, for the operator to control, he said.

One of the big advantages of the Rinieri machine was the fact that it has available a hydraulic powered head. This allows the rotating head to literally pull the weeds out of the ground resulting in a much cleaner vineyard and better removal of weeds.

³The other machines have ground driven heads that rotate due to ground speed but this Rinieri with the hydraulic power really cleans out the weeds and does a great job aerating the soil,² he said.

³ And its not only my opinion I can¹t get over the number of compliments since we started using the Rinieri ­ fellow vineyard owners and the general public saying how clean the vineyard is and how little weeds²

The Rinieri machine known as the Velox 5 ranges in price from $8000-$10,000 + GST depending on the attachments required. An outlay Mr Jones expects to quickly recover through reduced operating.

He also obtains a special bonus of lower chemical usage which he believes in the long-term will be very beneficial to his grape production.

 

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