Apart from just strip tilling stubbles ready for beet in the spring we are trying the option of planting a cover crop first then strip tilling through the cover crop as a second operation. We are banking on the cover crop adding the soil stability in the strip tilled rows over the winter.
Some pictures showing a mix of peas/linseed/radish and oats Autumn-17
Finally after quite a few phone calls to Vaderstad and Phillip Wright (thanks !) we finally have a solution of how to add another seed hopper to our Seedhawk. Desperate measures for one of the most frustrating and cold and wet and annoying spring seasons I can remember as we still haven’t been able to direct drill our spring barley area yet and we have some very hungry slugs. Hopefully after Daryn’s efforts in the workshop we have a fix which will let us drill slug pellets with the seed at 1/2 or 1/3rd rate using our old Opico Air8. Next step to get the two Horsch drills sorted out and we are already making a fix for the Sprinter or Aaron & crew are ! Update to follow !
Bit of an update on last years direct drilled 2nd wheats which we tried into a standing mustard cover crop. It was quite adventurous so was done on a limited area.
This is what we drilled into above and a clip taken from Daryn’s mobile phone below. It took a bit of confidence to push on with it as it was hard to see exactly what was going on but the seed went into very good conditions, plenty of moisture and tilth so we were reasonably confident it would come out okay.
It was a very bad grass block hence our plan not to give the blackgrass any chance to get established. We had given the mustard 3lt of Roundup the day before drilling. Some problems with blocking especially on the headlands but we persevered.
This is a few days after emergence, not the best looking crop in Essex I have to admit but a crop never the less. Mustard is down on the ground between the rows and covering the soil which was quiet notable in that we had quite a lot of rainfall and then drying out and the soil remained open and uncapped.
Same crop at early ear emergence with the picture taken in the same location. Reasonably happy with it but hasn’t tillered very well which may be the variety or the method, I’m not sure. Best thing is that the blackgrass was controlled quiet well with just a pre-emergence spray. Will be interesting to see how it yields for first year no-till ground.
After some extensive mods from Suffolk Agri and Amazone finally getting a much better result on the drill in that the coulters are penitrating now. This is on first year no-tilled ground which is always tricky and into an overwintered mustard cover crop. Not sure if the mustard was ideal for this as the ground took a long time to dry out after the cover crop was sprayed off in Febuary and there seems to be not much natural tilth in the top……just hard actually but its a reasonable job and hopefully will be okay. We have some better ideas for next years cover crops in this situation.
After the rape harvest the stubbles were left untouched to green up with volunteer oilseed rape plants; any bare patches were direct drilled with rape seed from the barn at a high seed rape to make sure that there was full coverage of the soil. A small amount of nitrogen was applied before the start of the NVZ closed period to ensure that the cover was as dense and full as possible. The aim was to outcompete any grass weeds and remove surface compaction (using the root mass of the cover crop) while capturing carbon. It was also important to ensure as much moisture was transpired out of the ground as possible since the two normal means of drying the ground out, cultivations and vaporisation of water from the soil surface, were not going to happen with a thick cover crop layer or mat.
Drilling started on Sept 18th after about 10mm of rain, we could have gone earlier however we were unsure how successful the black grass suppression had been.
As there was almost no black grass at all an earlier start would have been possible. The cover crop was sprayed off the previous day as we were keen not to have dead or dying plant material plugging the drill. The cover crop flowed through the drill well and there was a good seedbed. The crop was rolled two days latter and a pre-emergence spray used at 1/2 rate.
The tap roots of the cover crop had grown through almost all of the wheeling’s, this example came from within a tramline. Slug pressure was negligible as the slugs concentrated on the volunteer rape plants and the emerging wheat came through almost totally unaffected.
The emerged crop looked very good. This was the fourth no-tilled crop on this block and the establishment has become easier each year as the soil structure and surface tilth has improved dramatically. A block which was almost un-farmable four years ago due to black grass pressure is now performing well and is out yielding the conventional min-tilled land at a far lower growing and establishment cost.
Here are some views of the crop taken Oct-14
I’m looking forward to updating this as this as the season progresses !