The huge size and cost of farm machinery today means that many machines have multiple users, through contractors, machinery rings and co-ownership. Don't think it's a new phenomena, as contractors and custom harvesting, ploughing and other work has been done for over 150 years, as the threshing gang moved from one farm to another, and ploughing work was done with traction engines and huge beam ploughs. But today more of the work, be in combining or muck and slurry spreading, is done in the field rather than in the yard, so the opportunity for weed seed and disease distribution is perhaps greater.
The Ash tree die-back disease shows how virulent and aggressive plant diseases can be, and how easily they can be inadvertently moved many hundreds of miles.
Larry Steckel, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee Dept of Plant Sciences, says that farmers' and contractors' machinery is one of the main reasons why glyphosate-resistant pigweed is spreading into new areas such as mid Tennessee where it has never been before. The consequence is a sharp rise in the cost of weed control, which has increased ten-fold in the USA.
Larry says that, in the case of pigweed, harvesting equipment is the common culprit.
Using a simple rake to pull off loose material from the header and other places where seed and straw accumulate, and follow this with a broom for the seeds, reduces the quantity carried from one field to another.
A blast of air from a compressor or, as one reader showed us some five years ago, from a 2-stroke leaf blower, makes a better job and costs little more. The leaf blower was kept in the cab and used to every dinner time to clean off the air intake and other parts.
Practical Farm Ideas features innovations developed by farmers, contractors and small engineers, whose contributions, which are always included free of charge, are welcomed. Please email the editor