2014-06-13   facebook twitter rss

Crop Conferences Provoke Food for Thought

‘Put in more Carbon than you take out’ was the basic message from Steve Townsend of Soil First Farming given to delegates at both of Amazone Ltd’s first regional Intelligent Crop Production Conferences 2014.

The first conference was held at Wiltshire College, Lackham, Wiltshire, with the second at Amazone’s Harworth based Active Centre near Doncaster.

Chris Martin of Agrovista explains the virtues of growing companion plants alongside oil seed rape

Chris Martin of Agrovista explains the virtues of growing companion plants alongside oil seed rape

Steve was one of four key note speakers to address the auditorium and the fundamental theme across the board was one of needing to change the mind-set in order to improve, or sustain, our way of farming. With soils generally suffering from a reduction in organic matter over the last few decades, the only way to increase yield and reduce cultivation costs was to treat soils better. ‘Too intensive a cultivation, excessive amounts of Nitrogen and a lack of grass species in the crop rotation are all contributory factors in the decline of organic matter’ commented Mr. Townsend.

And that was echoed by Chris Martin, Northern Technical Manager for Agrovista Ltd who introduced to the floor work carried out by Agrovista with regard to growing companion crops alongside oil seed rape crops to provide protection from pigeon damage, improved Nitrogen capture in the autumn for release in the spring as well as a vast improvement in soil structure caused by the vast root mass produced by the mixture of Berseem clover alongside Common and Red vetch. With rape yields plateauing, this work had proved to be a major help in giving the plant the best possible start in life. The other interesting point Mr. Martin went on to explain was the radical reduction in slug damage which was due in part by the dislike of the slugs to the vetches.

Dr. Paul Miller of NIAB TAG showed his complete understanding of the behaviour of droplets and their distribution by boom sprayers with a fascinating insight into the effects of boom height, wind speed and forward speed on sprayer efficiency as well as explaining the pros and cons of the popular nozzle choices in various plant protection scenarios. ‘Incorrect boom height will have a far more radical effect on drift than wind speed’ commented Dr. Miller as he explained the potential issues created by the need to maintain timeliness and the bid to do that by increasing the forward speed of the sprayer, reducing the amount of water applied, increasing the tank size to get more done between fill-ups or going to a wider boom. The use of technology to ensure boom height stays at the recommended 50cm above target will have a major influence on keeping drift to a minimum and thus making better use of the chemicals applied. Paul then went on to say that the use of nozzle clusters, such as Amazone’s AmaSelect gets over the difficulties created by increasing forward speed, and hence water flow, which has the knock-on effect of increasing pressure and hence drift.

The second part of the day involved both kit and crops as half the group enjoyed a sneak preview of the new kit from Amazone ahead of Cereals 2014. Star of the show was the new Cenius 7003-2TX mulch cultivator with 4 rows of C-Mix tines capable of working down to 30cm which are protected by a pressure spring system which releases with a force over 600kg for when working stony conditions. This 7.0 metre monster is one of a range of four models from 4.0 through to 7.0 metre working width.

A row of double levelling discs follow the tines ahead of the depth control roller which is offered in four options – cage, tandem, wedge or knife ring. In dry, loose conditions, the 550/45 R22.5 flotation tyres that are normally used to transport the beast at speeds of up to 40 km/h are used to carry some of the weight in the field and when the going gets tough the roller can be dropped off all together and the transport wheels can be set to a fixed depth. if the tractor starts struggling to pull the trailed cultivator then up to 1,500 kgs, depending on the working depth, can be transferred off the cultivator and onto the rear end of the tractor to aid traction where necessary. Hydraulic braking or air braking comes as standard.

In the field, the trial plots at both sites were the focus point. The site at Harworth, Doncaster is in its fifth year of cropping and the four different styles of cultivation covered by three different types of drill have replicated the pattern for five successive harvests. By measuring energy input, man hours against yield it is plainly clear that the best margins are achieved when maintaining around 15cm of tilth ‘The different types of drill do not have a radical effect on yield’ explained Simon Brown, Brand Manager of Amazone Ltd and supervisor of the UK’s trials programme ‘the intensity of cultivation has more effect on yield than does the drill and from our results here, and across Europe in general, the 15cm medium deep min-till plots always stack up best in terms of both sustainability and gross margin. Remember, only cultivate as deep as is necessary and 1.0 -1.5 cm of soil per tonne per hectare of straw is perfectly adequate to incorporate cereal residues’. Leaving straw on the field will have a double benefit of increasing soil organic matter as well as less compaction problems caused by the inappropriate travelling of balers on the field.

And this point of view had been introduced earlier during the fourth seminar session where Dr. Sven Dutzi of Amazonen-Werke discussed the benefits of shallow and very early cultivation towards controlling grass weeds in a tight cereals/rape crop rotation. Showing pictures of machines not long off the drawing board, Dr. Dutzi also went on to explain the positive step that precision sowing rape has made to both plant establishment and yield in oil seed rape. This is also underlined by the increasing amount of work done on winter cereals ‘With yield increases of around 0.4 tonnes/ha being regularly achieved in rape, an increasing number of German farmers were switching over to drilling rape with a precision drill’. Modern precision drills are capable of huge work rates due to the design of the metering system and seed placement performance. This means that the optimum spacing and optimum depth control are maintained even when getting up to 15 km/h.


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