Drilling rape with a subsoiler or min-till cultivator may be popular but applying that seed using GPS-based variable-rate application and treatment maps hasn't really been tried before now.
However, a trial of one-pass oilseed rape establishment using just that technology at Frontier's Midlands demonstration site at Riseholme is showing a lot of promise.
Frontier worked with precision farming experts SOYL and kit makers Stocks Ag and RDS to carry out the trial - the first of its kind in the UK. If successful, the system could offer potential benefits to farmers who already use a one-pass system for oilseed rape cultivation.
Simon Parrington, commercial director of SOYL, says: "We had feedback from our customers asking if our SOYLseed maps could be used in conjunction with a cultivator-mounted oilseed rape seeder, but there was nothing available on the market. We thought that something could be developed, so we made contact with Stocks Ag and RDS to discuss the possibility of creating the system that was eventually used to drill rape at Riseholme this summer."
RDS provided a GPS receiver and PSi instrument to replace its Wizard unit, which is normally fitted to Stocks AG seeders. The system was bench-tested by Stocks AG and SOYL before being fitted to the Stocks Turbo Jet at Riseholme.
The oilseed rape was drilled on 17 August 2011 using a 4.6m Simba SLD cultivator mounted with the Stocks unit and controlled by the PSi instrument. GPS was hooked up to the PSi and maps were loaded via the integral SD card reader. Treatment maps were created by SOYL and based on a target seed population of 40 plants/sq m using seed rates of 3.1, 3.5 and 3.9 kg/ha to coincide with the different soil textures in the field.
The rape emerged well and is apparently developing strongly. If the trial is successful, says Mr Parrington, it could prompt farmers to make more use of variable rate seeding technology.