Welcome to the highly competitive world of professional ploughing video

TETSURO MITOMO, JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Bob Mehrtens is heading to the world championships in Kenya in December and Germany next year.

Champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens has a lot on his platter. 

An ace of the competitive ploughing world, Mehrtens has carved up the opposition in most fields since he first fell in love with the sport aged 12.

Now 60, the Timaru ploughman is preparing to represent New Zealand in the world championships of ploughing in Germany next year, his 10th world championship.

Mehrtens said "It's blimmin' hard to get two ploughs to match up side by side, it is not easy but it can be done, I've ...
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Mehrtens said "It's blimmin' hard to get two ploughs to match up side by side, it is not easy but it can be done, I've done it".

He describes competitive ploughing as an "intricate art form".  

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"You've gotta be consistent, you have to be at the top of your game. You can't just go out and make a balls of it one day and think you'll be fine the next."

Bob Mehrtens started ploughing when he was 12 years old and is headed to the world champs in Germany next year.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Bob Mehrtens started ploughing when he was 12 years old and is headed to the world champs in Germany next year.

Humans have been ploughing the earth for more than 1000 years, and it's still recognised as one of the most important agricultural inventions. The turning of the soil releases fresh nutrients, buries weeds and old crops.

The sport of competitive ploughing was formalised with the establishment of the World Ploughing Organisation in 1952.

There are two categories for competitive ploughing: conventional ploughing and reversible. Mehrtens competes in the reversible category.

Timaru champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens says he's drawn back to ploughing because of the camaraderie of the farming community.
MARY-JO TOHILL/FAIRFAX NZ

Timaru champion ploughman Bob Mehrtens says he's drawn back to ploughing because of the camaraderie of the farming community.

Mehrtens said with a reversible plough you basically had "two ploughs" instead of one. 

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"It's blimmin' hard to get two ploughs to match up side by side, it is not easy but it can be done, I've done it." 

Under standard rules, each competitor is given three hours to plough half an acre.  

Mehrtens of Timaru won the Farmlands fuel reversible competition at the NZ Ploughing contest held at Kirwee, Canterbury ...
SUPPLIED

Mehrtens of Timaru won the Farmlands fuel reversible competition at the NZ Ploughing contest held at Kirwee, Canterbury on Saturday and Sunday 22-23 April which

They're judged on their ability to plough in a neat and tidy fashion and stay in a straight line.  

"If you see a guy who's wandered off it look's blimmin' awful."

There's a lot of jargon to get your head around in this game.

World Ploughing Association chairman Colin Millar said Mehrtens had mastered the reversible ploughing class which was ...
TETSURO MITOMO/FAIRFAX NZ

World Ploughing Association chairman Colin Millar said Mehrtens had mastered the reversible ploughing class which was more complicated than conventional ploughing.

Weed control means there's no grass to be left behind. The opening of the plough line is called a "split". 

The "crown" marks the start of the actual plough turning over the soil which is continued until the end of the line known as the "strike".

Mehrtens earned the right to compete at next year's World Championships in Germany with his victory at the national championships in Kirwee, Canterbury in April, his tenth national title.

Bob Mehrtens will be one of two New Zealand representatives at world championship in Germany next year.
TETSURO MITOMO/FAIRFAX NZ

Bob Mehrtens will be one of two New Zealand representatives at world championship in Germany next year.

The father of four along with his wife Raewyn run their own truck and transport company out of Timaru after his career in farming curtailed prematurely in the 1980s.

"I was a farmer but Roger Douglas put a stop to that," he said, referring to the controversial former finance minister.

But the world of competitive ploughing keeps drawing him back because of the camaraderie within the farming community.

"I just love the rural people and I love all the people involved in it, they are sheep farmers, cropping farmers, deer farmers and on top of that engineers and truck drivers. It's the people I think are awesome, the rural people." 

World Ploughing Association chairman Colin Millar said the reversible class was certainly more complicated than conventional ploughing. 

"It's not easy but Bob has mastered it." 

Mehrtens said the secret to success was a tip he picked up from competing in the 1999 world championships in France.

He got the tip to replace the original metal run boards that attach to his plough which turn over the soil to plastic mould boards.

"It's awesome, they're the way to go, nothing sticks with them."

They made a better shiner thorough, they were more flexible and could twist over more soil and "they last and last".

When it came to practice he travelled all over the South Island to compete in the regional championships. 

He said: "I'm probably a wee bit lazy, I don't because I don't have a farm I drive a truck but I do as many matches or qualifying contests as I can, I probably do more than anyone in New Zealand.

"I find the best practice you can get is under pressure when you've other people against you."

He said he simply "loves it and is a good support for the others" competitors as well. 

Representatives from 28 countries would compete in the world championship, and each country sent one competitor for each class, conventional and reversible.

Ian Woolley of Blenheim will be representing New Zealand in the conventional ploughing class. 

New Zealand and Australia were the only countries in the Southern Hemisphere that competed, with the remainder of the entries coming from North America and Europe. 

Mehrtens said "I've got as good of chance as anyone".

"Your plots have got to be neat, straight and tidy. Straightness is very important in the ploughing side of it, your thorough's have got to be all individual so you can't see a pattern across your plot."

"It's reasonably easy to keep straight as long as you concentrate."

 

 - Sunday Star Times

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