Science - March 31, 2005

Spading machine alternative for plough

Farmers in the Netherlands traditionally prepare soil by ploughing. On sandy soil, however, digging the soil using a spading machine is a good alternative. It costs less time and yields remain the same, according to research at Applied Plant Research (PPO).

Until recently there was little hard data on the effect of digging on the soil and production levels, even though some farmers have gone over to this form of tillage. A test was carried out for year on the PPO test farm Vredepeel. The results show that a spading machine works as well as a plough on sandy soil when it comes to fighting weeds.

A plough turns the soil over; a spading machine mixes the soil: different techniques, but leading to no differences in weed pressure, yields and quality of the crop, in this case carrots. Where the spading machine was used there were higher yields in the smaller sized carrots, which fetch a higher price per kilo. The total financial yields were the same for both methods.

A clear advantage of spading is that there is no sole furrow that the farmer has to close with another machine. Where there are increases in scale, every extra soil working that has to be done is one too many,’ says project leader Jan Pauw of PPO. In addition, ploughs are heavier than the spading machine and therefore require more traction power. In the next test, PPO wants to compare the capacity and fuel use of the plough and the spading machine. The effect of the soil tilling methods on sugar beet will also be examined. The research is financed by Imants bv, manufacturer of spading machines. / HB

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