Tillerstar is a hit with onion grower

Charles Davison used a three-bed version of the George Moate Tillerstar for the first time last spring, preparing land for 164 acres of onions on abrasive Norfolk sand at West Bilney near East Winch. The machine combines cultivation, stone/clod separation and bed forming in one implement.

“Normally, we subsoil and sometimes plough before setting up ridges and de-stoning a single bed at a time,” says Mr Davison. “We would then run a power harrow through to pull soil into the wheelings before planting onion sets. With the Tillerstar, we cultivated and formed three beds, took out large stone and left a nice bed finish all in one go.”

Anything that reduces capital investment is always welcome and this is where the Tillerstar comes in. “I expect the machine will pay for itself over five years because of the cost savings,” says Mr Davison, who plans to capitalise on the seasonal capacity of the implement by contracting to other growers who want to experience the benefits of this one-man, one-tractor approach.

The Tillerstar is manufactured in Norfolk alongside a range of conventional ridge tillers, bed tillers and haulm toppers for potatoes and other vegetable and salad crops.

“It really does work,” Charles Davison declares. “I kept digging into the beds when we used it to prepare our ground earlier this year but never found any sizeable stone!”

His machine is set up to remove any material 28mm or larger, which if left in the bed threatens to jam the planter and damage the crop with bruises and nicks as it is windrowed, lifted by the harvester and handled over the grader on its way into storage.

Another attraction is the way it deposits the material separated from the bed. With conventional separation, stone is concentrated in wheelings; the Tillerstar deposits it beneath and across the full width of the bed, so it remains where it is needed to encourage drainage in subsequent crops.

“Previously, we’ve had to plough at an angle to the lines of stone to bring it back to a depth where my tined combo drill would distribute it,” notes Mr Davison. “I won’t have to plough in future because the Tillerstar leaves stone distributed evenly across the field; routine tine cultivations should then bring it back up through the soil profile.”

The three-bed implement is operated behind a tractor with 380hp on tap when operating pto-driven implements. Its stepless transmission makes it easy to get the ideal speed for working the Tillerstar in different conditions.

“I’m very pleased with the bed profile formed by the tiller – it’s probably doing a better job than the power harrow,” Mr Davison adds. “And the star rollers have worn very little, even on our quite abrasive soils.