2013-06-05 xml
EDX Brings Precision to Oil Seed Rape Sowing

It isn’t so long ago that rape was very much the ugly sister of the arable farming world with prices at an all time low and growers trying to establish the crop as cheaply as possible, slotting it into the rotation just as a break between wheats.

However, what a Cinderella-like reincarnation we have seen with it as the price/tonne now justifies lavishing some tender loving care on it – half a tonne a hectare of yield increase can add substantially to the bottom line – and all this with less seed.

OIl Seed rape

Thinner, less bushy plants are the result of competition between plants

’Independent long term trials’ explains Simon Brown of Amazone ’have shown that reducing the number of seeds along the row whilst keeping overall plant populations down below a certain level will increase yield. However, there is a theoretical minimum distance of 5cm between seeds that needs to be maintained as well a limit to the overall plant count, which needs to be fewer than 40 seeds/m2, otherwise the result will be a loss in yield’. To keep both of these figures in line then the ideal row spacing is 50cm and, with a seed spacing of 6.6cm, the resulting plant population of around 30 seed/m2 fits nicely into this equation.
‘We have seen that if plant numbers drop below 20 seeds/m2 there will be a yield penalty, although we should also consider that we have seen in our trials, in a thinner crop, a smaller percentage of plants being lost over winter’ comments Simon. This potential reduction in seed rates will obviously reduce the seed corn bill, however, It is not just a question of reducing input costs but also, by giving each individual seed its own micro-environment, the seedling has the chance of an equal supply of light, air, nutrients and water meaning that, in general, a thicker, bushier plant is produced with the ability to carry more seed pods.

Research has shown that by halving the seed rate, the average stalk thickness at the base is increased by 50% making the plants stand better, a major factor to consider when we think how much yield is lost through lodging in oil seed rape. The additional light and air around the plants can also help with pod set, disease transfer and the ability for those lower pods to mature fully.

To benefit most from these factors, then it is imperative that the seed is placed at a exact spacing and at a uniform depth and so the only way of ensuring this degree of accuracy is to use a precision seeder. The use of seeder box on the back of a cultivator will not give us either the planting depth control, the seed/soil contact nor the precise spacing between seeds that we need. However, the stumbling block with conventional precision seeders, because they are only capable of sowing at around 6-8 km/h and into an ideal, pre-prepared seedbed, has always been output and cost.

However, modern innovations in precision seeder design have now enabled the 6 metre Amazone EDX to travel at speeds of up to 16 km/h making outputs per day similar to that of an ordinary seed drill perfectly possible and with no loss in placement accuracy.

The use of a starter fertiliser down the spout is also ideally suited to this system as well, because an out-front fertiliser hopper can accurately meter NP fertiliser down to an area directly around the seed creating the perfect climate around the seed to promote early growth and develop a strong plant going into the winter. The width of the rows means that we can maximise the amount of N we can apply in the autumn by being able to place it in rows in and below the seed zone.

The Xpress metering system found on the Amazone EDX precision seeder separates the grain singling operation from the grain placement. The seed is metered via a central drum and hopper, meaning simpler filling, centralised setting up and equal, uniform distribution across all sorts of terrain. The grain is then injected into the longitudinal, tandem mounted, double disc coulter system at high speed to ensure that the spacing between seeds remains precision perfect where it is then forced into the seed furrow and caught by the catcher roller.

The rear V press rollers then squeeze soil over into the seed slot producing the perfect seed/soil contact and an even planting depth. The positives that we have taken from work carried out this autumn is, due to this V-roller, the lack of slug damage which is normally caused by the poor seedbed consolidation around the seed.

Due to the unique design of the Xpress coulters, the EDX can be used to sow into a pre-prepared plough based seedbed, mulch min-till scenarios or direct into stubble and so, depending on individual requirements, the drill can be used in all farming situations maintaining the flexibility of establishment.

‘The introduction of the new VarioTrail system will make precision rape sowing more feasible' Simon Brown goes on to add ‘because when the rape season is over the rape coulters can be replaced by a 6m solo disc coulter rail which means the hopper and chassis can be used for both precision seeding and for conventionally sowing cereals. Plus, with the additional maize acreage now being planted for AD plants, it means also that the EDX can be used virtually year round’


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