Vineyard Equipment Choice Designs Boost Production, Save Money

By: Cheryl Gray

From preparation to harvest, equipment makes the difference in how well a vineyard is maintained year-round. Tractors, tools and expertise in how to use both go a long way towards reaching that goal. To help clear the path are companies with the products that get the job done.

One of them is Tillage Management, Inc, which designs and manufactures one-pass and reduced-pass tillage equipment. A family-owned company out of Tulare, California, Tillage Management first began manufacturing one-pass tillage equipment for row crops back in 2006. In 2017, the company expanded its product line to include equipment that can handle the needs of vineyards. To be certain that innovation meets practical application, Tillage Management works side-by-side with its farming division to test its equipment and new product designs. Kat Coombes, project manager for Tillage Management, describes why minimizing passes optimizes cost savings.

“Our aim has been to sell high-quality products that are easy to use, simple and inexpensive to maintain, and ready to run when the farmer needs them. We can customize our units for different crops and soil types so our customers have the optimal setup or setups for their needs. By reducing passes, our customers typically save 50 percent or more on time and tillage costs. Our equipment also helps to reduce dust, incorporate organic material, and potentially improve soil health for crop roots.”

Coombes described some of the company’s most widely used products.

“For our newer models, we have applied large-scale, one-pass tillage principles to orchard- and vineyard-sized equipment to reduce passes and fix some of the typical tillage issues that exist in the market.”

Among the best features for Tillage Management products, Coombes says, is that there is little-to-no wear on original parts or replacement parts. The company prides itself on building for the lifetime of the product.

“We build heavy-duty frames with long-lasting working parts to allow our customers to keep running and stay out of the repair shop. All disk blades are independently-mounted to custom maintenance-free bearings with 10,000 to 25,000-plus acre lifetimes. Units leave a clean finish, maintain levels and do not throw dirt outside the working width.”

Tillage Management equipment, says Coombes, is customizable to fit almost any need. Some of those custom features include either towed or three-point hitch options, three-row or five-row disk and implement combinations, multiple implement types to combine with disks and every working width from four to 15 feet.

Coombes told The Grapevine Magazine about Tillage Management products that vineyard owners should consider.

“The OPTIMIZER Model 1007 is a three- or five-row towed disking implement. For a vineyard with 12-foot spacing and cover crops to work into the soil, this eight-foot-wide unit with a seven-foot working width would be set up with two rows of disk blades for complete uprooting coverage, two rows of chrome-edged baskets for soil mixing and residue incorporation and a final smooth roller for a clean, flat finish. This would typically replace two to three passes with a traditional disk and work two to three times as quickly as a rototiller.

The OPTIMIZER Model 304 is a three-row, three-point hitch disking implement. For a vineyard with eight-foot spacing and some residue, prunings or cover crop to work in, this is a five-foot-wide unit with a four-foot working width. All weeds and cover crops would be uprooted and soil inverted by the two rows of disk blades; then, the rear cultipacker would break up clods and leave a level, crumbly finish. The seven-foot-long 300 Series is great for tight spaces and precision control but with the tillage potential of a much larger implement.

The OPTIMIZER CR Series Model CR-7 is a three-row, three-point hitch chisel implement. For a vineyard with compaction issues, water penetration problems or soil stratification that extends past the top four inches, the Chisel Roller is an excellent solution. Chisel shanks with wings allow full soil-shattering coverage across the working width, while the subsequent roller breaks down large clods and leaves a level, crumbly finish. It works great on its own or in combination with an OPTIMIZER disk.”
Coombes adds that Tillage Management has also designed products with smaller vineyards in mind.

“The OPTIMIZER 300 and 1000 Series require a minimum of 11 to12 horsepower per foot working width, so tractor requirements start at 48 HP. Our goal has been to make our one-pass tools more widely available for smaller tractors and smaller farms.”

Another California-based company, Solectrac, offers vineyards electric tractors. This year, World Ag Expo recognized the company for innovation in its field, earning an award for “Top 10 New Product.” Being quiet with zero emissions and no dependency on fossil fuel are among the features that make Solectrac’s products not only popular in the United States but as far away as Canada, Norway and India. Global demand, the company says, continues to grow because of concerns over protecting the environment, coupled with increasing prices for fossil fuels.

Vineyards switching from diesel to one of Solectrac’s electric tractors can charge their machinery with solar energy. Prices for these electric tractors range anywhere from $35,000 for a 24- to 30-horsepower model to $75,000 for the 70-horsepower version. While the initial cost is as much as 40 percent higher than traditional tractors, Solectrac points out that by not having to use fuel and oil, coupled with lower maintenance costs, the electric tractors pay for themselves within two to three years.

On the East Coast, BDI Machinery Sales, Inc. specializes in the tool and machinery needs of fruit, vegetable and nursery growers. Founded in 1996 and based just outside of Philadelphia, the company sources and distributes agricultural equipment from around the world.

Paul Licata has more than 25 years of experience in senior sales, marketing and operations management.

“BDI Machinery Sales is your complete source for innovative specialty agricultural machinery. We offer numerous types and sizes of sprayers, hedgers, leaf removers, shredders, cultivators, pruners, mowers, row mulchers and other specialized machinery from around the world.”

Licata explains why BDI Machinery is the first choice for many vineyards when it comes to finding just the right equipment, giving details on some of its most popular options.

“The CIMA low-volume atomizer sprayers are the industry standard and technology leader, with single, multi-row, row cannon and pneumatic air boom spray heads. The OLMI Air (Pneumatic) Impulse deleafers are the industry standard and technology leader, with single and multi-row configurations. The Rinieri CRV Vision Hedger/Trimmer is the industry standard and technology leader, with single, multi-row and over-the-row configurations.”
When it comes to product innovation and technology, Licata promises that BDI can deliver.

“CIMA EPA 2.0 System (Delivery Proportional to Advance) works with the full range of new CIMA’s low-volume pneumatic sprayers. For spraying quantity accuracy, by decreasing the forward speed, the system automatically reduces the quantity delivered while increasing the forward speed and the quantity delivered. This system avoids product waste and assures treatment effectiveness, a great cost-saving and a reduction in the environmental impact. Easy programming is guaranteed, as it is possible to save and manage up to 15 programs by entering the following operation parameters.

OLMI Air impulse deleafers are implemented multiple times during the growing season and are the pinnacle of leaf-removal technology. The machine is air-powered through a compressor to multi-diffusers that are rotating. The pneumatic machine shatters leaves to remove them from the canopy, as opposed to previous technologies that pull the leaves. Trials have shown traditional leaf pullers remove about 50 percent to 60 percent with control, while the air impulse deleafer removes targeted leaves with 100 percent control.

The Rinieri Finger weeder cultivator allows farmers to no longer reduce spraying and use this machine for organic weed control. The new range of Rinieri finger weeders is for fast mechanical weeding (up to 6 MPH) composed of the Bio-disc, which breaks the ground near the plants and then the Bio-Star with its rubber spokes for inter-row processing.”

Brazil is home to Jacto, an agricultural machinery company touting workable solutions for vineyards looking for equipment alternatives. Jacto has clients in more than 100 countries, with production plants in Brazil, Argentina and Thailand. Paulo Bueno works as a product manager in the engineering, marketing and commercial areas.

“Jacto has a wide range of high-tech products, from equipment for pruning and portable sprayers to large machines for spraying, fertilizer spreading, planting, coffee and sugarcane harvesting. Jacto also provides solutions and services for precision agriculture and agriculture 4.0 for increasingly more sustainable productions.

The main innovations in the field of fruit sprayers are present in the Arbus 4000 JAV (Jacto Autonomous Vehicle) used in citrus cultivation. In this equipment, LIDAR sensors, radar and optical units capture information from the environment and support decision-making. The spray tower is composed of eight independent electric fans, four on each side and arranged in a row, in each of which it is possible to change the wind speed and spray flow, allowing the application to be interrupted in each of the eight sections as needed. Adjusting the position of the fans is also possible, bringing it closer or further away from the crop, modifying the angle of each deflector in the vertical direction, in order to make the application converge to the plant.”

The experts agree that cost, low maintenance and longevity are key to making a good investment when it comes to vineyard equipment and tools. The choices are vast, and discernment goes a long way to making the right one.

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