Inter-row hoes are unlikely to fully replace chemical weed control, but the method has great potential to reduce reliance upon sprays.
Several large machinery manufacturers have recognised this and bought into the idea with the purchase of small specialist companies that already have the knowledge and experience in this field.
Backing the concept
Lemken is one such company and with its purchase of Steketee, it appears to be putting its full weight behind the move towards weed control by cultivation.
This view has been reinforced by the appearance of the latest product from Steketee which converts any existing hoe to a camera-guided unit through the simple expedient of being interposed between the tractor and implement.
Known as the EC-Steer, it is described as a “three-point mounted steering frame, which enables smooth and precise steering while working with open lower-link stabilisers on the tractor”.
Manual or automatic control of hoes
There are two ways by which tractor operators can control the machine, the first of which is by a standard joystick.
The second is via the company’s IC-Light camera steering system, a method of automating hoe guidance that is already well tried and trusted.
Camera steering enables the machine to differentiate between crop plants and weeds, based on different shades of green or the RGB (red, green, blue) colour spectrum.
As a result, Steketee claims that the machine can work automatically to within 2cm of the planted row.
9m working width
The parallel steering frame is available as an integral part of standard Steketee machines or as a stand-alone unit that can be used to upgrade a hoe made by most other manufacturers.
It comes in two models, the first being the EC-Steer 7, which is suitable for hoeing machines with a weight of up to 2,500kg and a working width of up to 6m.
It has an open three-point headstock which offers the advantage that the camera can be positioned centrally on the steering frame to cover an extremely large field of view.
The second version is EC-Steer 9 with reinforced frame design, suitable for larger hoeing machines with a working width of up to 9m and a weight of up to 4,000kg.