Here’s a machine which was entered in the farm workshop competition at the Essex Young Farmers Show earlier this month.
The weather over here has certainly made fools of many this year.
As the dry weather persisted, forecasters were searching for superlatives, and then the heavens opened, and the story reversed to became flood control, sodden fields and how best the surplus of rain water could be controlled.
The spiker-aerator must be the only machine which has a value in both times of drought and flood.
When the season is very dry, it helps any moisture that does arrive to percolate down from the soil surface, reducing the amount lost through evaporation.
When the rain is continuous, the millions of slits across the field provide the rain water with a channel into the lower soil structures, very considerably reducing in the volume of field run-off.
Getting water, as well as air, to grass plant roots is a vital way to promote growth.
Steve Mynott from Halstead, in Essex, re-engineered an old Lely power harrow by welding worn tines to the axle of the crumbler roller, which was shorn of all its bars.
The angled base of each tine provides a useful area to weld on the tube.
Steve used the back end of the flat piece which squares up reasonably well with the tube, which is fitted with convenient flanges against which the tines can be positioned and welded.
Every other row has no flange, and for these, he used a short length of angle as a support for the other side.
The tines are located so that their straight back edge is leading into the grass rather than the curved front.
Like commercial aerators, Steve finds the effect is to raise grass yield by around 30%, which provides a very worthwhile saving on fertilisers.
With better water percolation, the fields have a drier surface in wet weather.
Surface applied slurry is washed into the soil faster than before he started using the machine, which was some two years ago.
His main grass crop is hay, and yields are easy to measure. Working the machine requires patience, as the 3m width can only be pulled relatively slowly, not because of a lack of power, but because the whole thing can be lifted when a tine hits a buried stone.
In the field, Steve adds some extra weight on the back which helps penetration, which is as good as for any machine I have ever seen — between four and five inches on each tine is shining.
Despite its lack of paint and sophistication, the slitter-aerator was a worthy prize winner in the workshop competition in this one-day event organised by the Essex Young Farmers, and which attracts 18,000 visitors.
The machine is the ultimate in recycling, and the only cost was in the welding, done with a stick machine.
Grass aerators provide benefits all round, and their use should be seriously considered by all farmers who are looking for better grass output, as well as environmental improvements from lower rain water run-off, stream pollution, and an increase in underwater aquifer flow.
They are not, of course, a 100% cure for soil compaction. That needs much lighter machinery working land that has been loosened mechanically and by surface weathering.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved