Zürn Top Cut Collect harvests and collects problem weeds

Photo: René Koerhuis
Photo: René Koerhuis

Zürn is ready to market the invention of French farmer Romain Bouillé for mechanical control of mainly grass-like weeds. The technique looks promising for tackling problem weeds like black-grass.

German combine header specialist Zürn is marketing its new Top Cut Collect, a machine that mows and collects weeds that grow above crops. The machine was invented by young French arable farmer and inventor/entrepreneur Romain Bouillé who was trying to find a solution to mechanically tackle resistant grass-like weeds such as black-grass and ryegrass, as well as lamb’s quarters/white goosefoot in his sugar beet fields.

Prototypes

He built a first prototype using parts and components he had lying around and when the concept proved successful, he built several other prototypes before patenting the system in 2017.

His machine can best be described as a weed mower with a draper header, a central conveyor belt and a hopper/bunker. The two-piece header with double cutter bar is available in 9, 12 and 18 m working widths and suitable for working from 35 cm to 1.5 m above the ground. Two spiral-shaped/helical reels sweep the cut weeds that protrude above the crop onto the drapers that transport the weeds and seeds via the central conveyor belt to the open hopper.

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A double cutter bar cuts protruding weed plants and the reel sweeps it onto the drapers. The distance between reel and cutter bar depends on the type and size of the weeds. - Photo: René Koerhuis
A double cutter bar cuts protruding weed plants and the reel sweeps it onto the drapers. The distance between reel and cutter bar depends on the type and size of the weeds. - Photo: René Koerhuis

Combat herbicide resistant weeds

Zürn sees the concept as promising to help combat weeds that have become (nearly) resistant to herbicides and for organic farming, and will manufacture and sell the machine as Zürn Top Cut Collect.

It was first shown in Zürn livery at the 2019 Agritechnica fair in Germany and earlier this year, it was awarded a SIMA Innovation Award in the Agro-Ecological Transition category. Future Farming took the chance to see a 12 metres version at work in a Dutch winter wheat crop.

CombCut resemblance

At first glance, the concept and way of working looks like that of the Swedish CombCut, also a farmer invention, which basically combs weeds out of crops. The CombCut is based on the idea of using the difference in stiffness between the weed (thistles initially) and the crop. This makes it possible to comb the crop and cut the weed. The difference with the Top Cut Collect is that it has no active cutter bar and it does not collect the weed plants and seeds.

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Dutch Top Cut Collect demo

At the time of the Dutch Top Cut Collect demo, late June, the winter wheat crop was already starting to ripen and therefore it was basically 3 to 4 weeks too late to run the machine. The field nonetheless is highly populated with black-grass protruding from the crop.

The conditions prove how important a correct height adjustment of the cutter bar is. This is done from the tractor cab, but by hand, left and right separately. Both headers have a support wheel too but there’s no automatic height control. You also have to manually set the height of the reel above the cutter bar and draper and to manually adjust the speeds of the hydraulically driven cutter bar and belts. This takes some practice.

The distance between reel and cutter bar depends on the type and size of the weeds. With black-grass, this distance is minimal. The hydraulics require 60 to 80 litres of oil per minute.

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You manually adjust the height of the cutter bar, left and right separately. Both headers have a support wheel too but there’s no automatic height control. This takes some practice. - Photo: René Koerhuis
You manually adjust the height of the cutter bar, left and right separately. Both headers have a support wheel too but there’s no automatic height control. This takes some practice. - Photo: René Koerhuis

Up to 4 passes

The owner of the field is very keen on having black-grass dealt with as this weed is getting more problematic is this typical cereals area in the North-East of The Netherlands. Although his tramlines are 40 meters apart, he’s got no problem with the Top Cut Collect’s working width of 12 metres and its 210/95 R44 wheels 1.8 to 2.5 metres apart on a rigid axle causing damage to his crop.

According to BASF, every black-grass plant produces up to a 1,000 seeds per plant consisting of 100 seeds in each of the 10 heads and seeds have a longevity of 1 to 5 years.

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Both header parts are folded next to the machine for transport. The transport width is limited to 2,35 m. The machine only requires a small and lightweight tractor of at least 30 hp. - Photo: René Koerhuis
Both header parts are folded next to the machine for transport. The transport width is limited to 2,35 m. The machine only requires a small and lightweight tractor of at least 30 hp. - Photo: René Koerhuis

The Zürn representatives estimate that every treatment with the Top Cut Collect harvests 60 to 70 per cent of the heads and seeds. All in all, and depending on the growth stages of the black-grass, it will take 2 to 4 treatments to harvest most of the plants and seeds. At 4 to 5 kph and 12 m working width, the machine has a capacity of up to 6 ha/h. 9 and 18 metres versions are also available.

The demo field in The Netherlands was only treated once and resulted in two full 14 ton trailers from 30 hectares in total!

Koerhuis
René Koerhuis Precision Farming Specialist