Ploughing aces ready to turn the soil

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Defending reversible class champion Bob Mehrtens, of Timaru, fine tunes his plough.

The tractors and horses have arrived, the marquee is up and the best ploughmen and women in the country are getting their eye in during practice days ahead of the 64th annual New Zealand Ploughing Championships, at Chertsey, this weekend.

Among them defending reversible class champion Bob Mehrtens, of Timaru.

It’s his 41st national championship; he’s won at least 10.

He is driving his trusty Ford 7740, pulling his customised Kverneland reversible plough.

It’s been to the World Ploughing Championships in Kenya (in 2017), Germany (in 2018) and in a few weeks will head to America for the 2019 championships, along with New Zealand conventional plough champion Ian Woolley, of Marlborough.

Mehrtens, who confesses to being highly competitive, will compete against four others for the reversible national title and the chance to represent New Zealand at the world event in Russia next year.

It is the first time such a big ploughing event has been hosted in Mid Canterbury since the World Championships in Methven, in 2010.

Hosted by Rakaia Ploughing Association, the Wilkinsons Road grounds are ready after members were on site last week to mark out the plots for each ploughing class, which measured 90m by 20m (conventional, reversible), 60m by 20m (vintage) or 60m by 10m (horse).

They will compete across two days on grass and stubble fields.

Forty of the best ploughing competitors in the country will converge on the site, with 36 competing in four ploughing class championships and four in the new Young Farmer ploughing competition.

The championship classes are silver plough (conventional), reversible, vintage and horse plough. Only the conventional and reversible winners will represent New Zealand in Russia.

A new grass-to-barley challenge, with some of New Zealand’s biggest tractors and ploughs, will also be on show in a demonstration site next to the competition area. It will start after the competition ends each day at around 2.45pm.

The weekend event, which starts Saturday, promises some mighty action and members of the public are welcome. Gates open from 9am. Entry costs $10 per adult, children free.