Tillerstar cultivator-separator now available
A unique implement that combines the work of a bed tiller and stone/clod separator in one machine is now available to growers in Ireland after a successful first commercial season on farms in Great Britain.
The Tillerstar, manufactured by George Moate Ltd, cultivates and separates in one pass, in contrast to conventional multi-implement, multi-pass systems.
“This can save a grower thousands in capital expenditure and the running costs associated with fuel and labour,” says managing director Richard Pratt. “It will also reduce a grower’s carbon footprint and there are benefits for subsequent crops in the way separated stone is deposited beneath rather than to one side of the bed.”
First examples of the Tillerstar have been used by farmers in Britain growing potatoes, beetroot, carrots, leeks and onions. The implement is also suitable for all root crops grown in beds, as well as salads and bulbs.
“We took a cautious approach for our first year, keeping machines close to home so we could be sure to provide good service and parts back-up,” says Richard Pratt. “Now, we’re happy to supply Tillerstar cultivator-separators and our other potato equipment products a bit further afield and I’m delighted that we’ve received our first order from a grower in Ireland.”
Father and son Robin and Ivan McKee grow potatoes at Comber near Newtownards overlooking Strangford Lough. They were leading lights in the successful campaign to get Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the European Union in 2012, so that only potatoes lifted from fields around the Co Down village can be called New Season Comber Potatoes or Comber Earlies.
They were attracted to the George Moate Tillerstar by the prospect of a big reduction in bed preparation costs, which results from completing in one pass as many as three operations normally carried out individually.
The conventional approach to bed preparation often involves separate passes with a bed-maker to set up ridges, a bed tiller to cultivate heavier soils and a trailed separator to remove stone and/or clod from the seedbed.
All three implements can be replaced by the Tillerstar, which is capable of working directly into un-cultivated soil. Unlike a conventional separator, the stone and persistent clods are distributed beneath the full width of the bed rather than into a furrow between the beds.
“This means routine cultivation will bring the evenly-distributed material back into the upper soil profile to help drainage for subsequent crops,” points out Lesley Pratt, commercial director of George Moate Ltd. “Growers say the lack of windrowed stone is a good ‘selling feature’ to potato growers wanting to rent land from grain farmers.”
“We’re aiming to be more efficient and taking two tractors, two drivers and two machines out of the bed making process is a great way to be more efficient,” says Ivan Mckee. “Normally, we use a deep ridger to pull up the beds, a tiller to cultivate them and then a de-stoner; with the Tillerstar we’ll do the job in one pass straight on to ploughed ground”.
“I was also intrigued by the concept of leaving the stone across the full width of the bed rather than removing it in to an 8” strip,” he adds. “Placing the stone beneath the bed should help with the drainage in the potatoes and subsequent crops.”