A joint initiative by The Felix Thornley Cobbold Agriculture Trust in Suffolk and The Arable Group should help growers understand the sustainability of their rotations in the future.

The STAR project (sustainable trial for arable rotations), which started last autumn, will test four different cropping rotations against four different cultivation systems over five years, Andrew Creasy, TAG’s development agronomist confirms.

“Sustainability is the key to the whole thing,” he says.

“We are aiming to prove which system works.”

The replicated trial is being carried out at the Trust’s heavy clay Stanaway Farm, near Ipswich.

“The trial protocol has been verified by Rothamsted,” Mr Creasy confirms.

“We have 16 plots which are being replicated three times.

Each plot is 36m by 36m.”

Because of the field selected for the research, all the wheat that features in the trial this season is continuous.

“Next year all the plots will have wheat in, so we might be able to test different management approaches to the crop for instance looking at grassweed populations and take-all.

“All the trials will be taken to yield.

We’ll also be assessing establishment plant counts, soil structure, water infiltration, grassweed headcounts, disease levels, residual soil nitrogen levels, pH and nutrient status in general on all the plots.”

Management of the plots is being carried out by Mr Creasy’s brother Paul, who manages the farm on behalf of the Trust.

“If you can do as little cultivation as possible to grow a winter wheat rotation, then what is the cheapest way of doing that?

That is what we’re looking at and how shallow cultivations now might affect crops in a few seasons’ time.”

julian.gairdner@rbi.co.uk