The Use of Flail Mowers for Orchard and Vineyard Maintenance
Most people would think that the maintenance of trees and vines would be the most important consideration for orchard and vineyard operators. However, the care of the undergrowth below these stands is just as important. Let’s see how flail mowers, typically thought of as implements for pasture management, can be vital to the success of orchards and vineyards.
Cover crops are grown between vine and tree rows in vineyards and orchards for several reasons. Probably the most common reason is for erosion control—slowing the runoff of rain water and holding soil in place–especially in the hills of California. Other reasons include the addition of nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. In orchards and vineyards that are also marketed as tourist destinations, proper ground cover reduces the negative impact of foot traffic and enhances aesthetics.
Once a ground cover is chosen and established, its maintenance is crucial to maximize its benefits. Timely mowing is critical. Mowing encourages proper growth, spreading, and flowering of cover crops. It also removes tall weeds that might shade cover crops thus impeding their growth. Mowing shreds vine and tree prunings as well as dropped fruit and leaf litter thus also recycling nutrients from orchard and vineyard debris.
To tackle these tasks, flail mowers are a useful implement for vineyard and orchard operators. A flail mower cuts with “flails”, y- or t-shaped blades attached to a long shaft. This shaft, powered through PTO drive, runs parallel to the ground, and as it rotates these blades shred biomass and prunings. A second stationary shaft follows the first smoothing the freshly cut undergrowth and catching larger clippings that require more time near the blades for sufficient mulching. This allows flail mowers to easily tackle tough vines, branches and dropped fruit while also evenly distributing clippings and eliminating clumps that might kill the undergrowth beneath.
Tractor Tools Direct offers several models of flail mowers for our orchard and vineyard operators. However, our TM62 Hydraulic Offset Flail Mower is by far the most popular since it is the perfect choice for tough mowing situations that can’t be reached with a typical rear-mounted mower. In an orchard or vineyard it works as a standard rear-mounted flail mower, easily chopping through thick covercrops and vine and tree prunings.
This model of TM62 mower really shines in the offset position, allowing you to reach under overhanging branches and vines. This positioning can even be done on the fly as you cut making it easy to work around trees and among vine rows. Another plus of the offset position is that it allows you to cut overgrown areas without driving over the material first, resulting in a better, more complete cut.
Ingels, Chuck A. Cover cropping in vineyards: A Grower’s Handbook. Cooperative Extension, University of California, 1998.