Seed rates, straw raking, mycorrhizae and my tip of the year: Sittingbourne Monitor Farm

There are a few things I’ve learnt this year that I’ll be carrying forward into the 2018 harvest crops. Our drill trials on the farm demonstrated what I had suspected, that our current seed rates for the Sumo DTS need lifting from the 350 seeds/m2 we usually kick off with. I think the wide row spacing (33cm) increases intra-row competition and reduces final fertile tiller numbers. Our ear count last week in the DTS plot was 450/m2 and I would like to get that to 600/m2.

I will continue ground-truthing fields using qualified soil scientists and this will form the basis for a higher seed rate strategy. I have been given establishment reports that often contain areas with expected germination at sub-70% and therefore I will be sowing substantially more seed in these areas than I will have done previously. Standardising a field to 85% establishment isn’t accurate enough. If I achieve uniformity here from the outset will it negate the need for variable rate N during the season? I could save money. This was what one farmer that visited us this year had found and I will trial a part field this coming season and review the yield data off the combine.

Discussion within the group over the year highlighted the potential downside to straw raking, exacerbating the spread of blackgrass seeds away from local populations and into parts of the field that had previously been clean. A couple of established no till farmers have come away from this practice as a result, preferring instead to let seed denude on the surface naturally. I can see the possible merit in this with the right drill that can deal with undisturbed crop residues come planting.  I am also tending to believe that having a flexible system whereby the option is there to lightly incorporate and force a chit may be optimal on our farm.

We also established that we could inoculate soils with mycorrhizae using the avadex applicator mounted on the rolls ahead of drilling. And we also concluded that the best place in the rotation to colonise the soil is via a six-week cover crop drilled behind the combine. This summer we will be applying this technique after the oilseed rape and peas are harvested.

And finally, tip of the year (courtesy of Stuart Woods our sprayer operator):

  • apply a ring of tape at the junction of sprayer hoses and pipework, it’ll give you an early warning of any movement should connections start to fail.

Sittingbourne blog end of yr1

MarkBowsher-Gibbs

MarkBowsher-Gibbs

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