11 April 1997

Adviser trio offers help over hurdles

By Robert Harris

BROAD crop growing advice rather than single product information is the aim of a new advice package launched last week.

"Farmers face a series of hurdles when growing crops," says John Davies of Monsanto, one of the companies involved in the Progressive Crop Management initiative "They have several problems which they needs solutions for."

The scheme, a partnership between Monsanto, Simba, Claas and the Game Conservancy Trust offers a more integrated approach, claims Monsantos Olivier Clech.

"The system is designed to save the farmers time, particularly when demands on labour are highest. This may be by removing the need for costly cultivations after set-aside, speeding up harvest or reducing the number of operations before crop establishment."

The core of the system is ECOtillage. Stubbles are disced to 2.5-7cm (1-3in), pressed and rolled to produce a stale seed-bed. Emerging weeds are sprayed with glyphosate (Sting CT) before drilling. That alone gives an average 57% control of black grass, says Monsantos Colin Stride.

A pre-emergence spray of Avadex (tri-allate) typically boosts weed control to 70%, he adds. Post-emergence products like ipu then follow.

Perennial weeds are controlled pre-harvest with Roundup (glyphosate). The technique can also reduce combining costs, says Claass Laurence Rook. Combines are expected to work at least 300 hours a season, over 600ha (1500 acres) with the largest machines.

Clean, dry crops are vital to achieve that throughput, he says. Too often that is not the case, and capacity can fall 20%, pushing costs up from £52/ha to £67/ha (£21/acre to £27/acre).

"Desiccation creates a harvest window, evens ripening and speeds combining," he says. "A managed harvest preserves quality, and allows farmers to get the crop in the barn. It also allows early cultivation, weed control, and drilling."

Further partnerships are expected. Hybrid wheat, take-all seed treatments, and a product to control couch and brome in growing crops are expected. Plants genetically modified to ward off disease are also planned.

Boost weed control and cut harvest and cultivation costs by spraying before cutting and using stale seed-beds, urge Monsanto, Claas and Simba.


&#8226 Integrated crop advice.

&#8226 Reduced cultivations.

&#8226 Cheap, timely establishment.

&#8226 Multi-product chemical use for reliable weed control and reduced seed bank.

&#8226 Pre-harvest management by desiccation advised.

&#8226 Set-aside sprays preferred to cutting or cultivation.