Establishing first wheat into a cover crop in Autumn 2014
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 !