One of the methods of keeping weeds down in swede crops is by using mechanical cultivators or weeders.
The turnip scarifier or drill cleaner was invented before tractors, in the early 1900’s, with the first ones being made to be pulled by a horse. I have a video of a horse-drawn scarifier we have converted to hook onto the 3 point linkage. you can see where the two round shafts were cut off the top of the frame.
The drill cleaner works by having two discs cut away each side of the swede plant leaving only a narrow strip in the middle which contains the swede plant and weeds.
The timing of using a drill cleaner is important, if you use it too early, the swede plants have too long to grow until they close in on the next swede plant – this gives the soil time to begin growing weeds again. If you wait too long, the swede plant gets too big and you must leave a wider strip in the middle of the drill and risk cutting the leaves off the swede plant which sets it back, again giving weeds time to catch up.
The great thing about the drill cleaner is that it is made to follow the drill. If you have drills which are not completely straight, the drill cleaner will follow the twists and turns without the operator’s assistance.
The other great thing is that even though the cleaner follows the drill, it has the ability to set the discs off the centre of the drill by moving a long handle easily accessed by the driver of the tractor.
The drill cleaner in the images is one I bought some time ago and was made in Scotland by Geo Henderson in Kelso around 1939- which can be seen stamped on one of the adjustable plates of the machine.
Drill cleaners are an old invention but can be very effective when used correctly, with many turning to organic farming methods they may be used for many years to come.