8 September 1995

An even seed-bed is route to

big bale kale silage making

SUCCESSFUL wilting of kale for big bale silage depends on having a uniform crop with thin stems, says technique pioneer, Ron Patey.

He told 100 visitors to a demonstration at the Institute of Environmental Researchs North Wyke station, Devon, that successful big bale kale silage required an even seed-bed. "Sow the right seed rate at the right depth so you get maximum germination and stalks are the same thickness," he said.

The North Wyke crop appeared a good one considering its June 2 sowing date and the lack of rain. But it proved difficult to get the mower-conditioners to work.

Kale built up in front of the mower, and some plants were chopped into pieces which fell to the ground and could not be picked up.

"The ideal treatment is to split the kale stalks without chopping them up and without damaging the leaves," said Mr Patey. "In that way you get improved wilting, but the plants stay whole and are easier to pick up with the baler without also collecting a lot of soil.

"A good even population of kale plants also means there will be a good stubble to hold the cut swath up off the ground and allow air under it. The baler will pick it up cleanly without much waste.

"But here the thicker stemmed plants are being chopped up. Instead of flowing through the conditioner, they are falling back on to the knives and getting cut again and again. And also, in some parts of the field, there are not enough plants to give a good stubble."

Despite his best efforts there was significant "wastage" left behind the balers.

North Wykes Nigel Young said the material left behind would be cleared up by cows or sheep.

He said the mower-conditioner problems had not been experienced with another kale crop cut earlier. Likewise Mr Patey had not encountered difficulties harvesting kale for silage.

His own recipe for a successful kale crop was to prepare a fine seedbed and then drill 7.4kg/ha (3kg/acre) of seed using an Amazone close-spacing cereal drill set for a shallow depth.

"If you have to broadcast kale, do it on to ring-rolled ground so that the sowing depth is even." &#42

Farmer Ron Patey discusses how to secure correct plant populations and hence effective harvesting.