21 June 2002

Band sowing offers big benefits

DRILLING wheat in bands rather than rows seems set to boost yields and cut production costs, says Velcourt.

Its enthusiasm is based on early ear counts and leaf area index assessments in plots within the Arable Event area at Cereals 2002.

Better spatial arrangement of plants means less competition between tillers allowing more even growth, visitors to the plots sponsored by Banks Cargill, Bayer, Monsanto, Case and Simba saw.

That results in better light interception, a less disease prone micro-climate and probably a better root mass underneath, says technical director Keith Norman.

Those benefits will add up to a 0.3-0.5t/ha yield advantage, he expects. And potential savings on seed, fungicides and horsepower requirement could also cut costs.

Leaf area index (LAI) scores in all Velcourts plots drilled in bands with the Simba Horsch CO drill are higher than those drilled with a conventional in-line drill.

"With a maximum LAI of about 5.5 that extra 0.5 is a significant percentage," says Mr Norman.

Ear counts also show the band drilled plots ahead on all bar one variety.

The difference between early and November-drilled blocks is even more significant, suggesting band-sowing could be a big benefit with later drilled crops, says trials manager James Alford.

Thats echoed by Mr Norman, who says the draft requirement/m of such drills is less, which would be a bonus in the heavier conditions expected later in the year.

Dr Alford also believes the better spatial arrangement and likely increase in root mass may mean band-sown crops are less susceptible to take-all, possibly saving a take-all targeted seed dressing.

The drill trial plots in the Arable Event area will be taken to yield and similar comparisons are being conducted on Velcourt farms in Yorks, Kent and Wilts. HGCA funding for further work investigating the technique is being sought. &#42

Band-sowing takes the silver medal in technical innovations that are the key to survival at £60/t, says Velcourts Keith Norman.


Variety Band- In-line Diff LAI sown sown incr

Early-sown

Consort 374 386 -12 0.74

Claire 440 384 56 0.50

Option 523 516 7 0.18

November-sown

Consort 438 347 91 0.56

Option 434 357 77 0.60

Caphorn 545 487 58 0.18

CO drill good where trash is high

Independent tillage consultant Steve Townsend says the CO drill is particularly useful in high trash min-till situations. "It makes up a lot of my recommendations where we are trying to incorporate a lot of straw. Where were not I use other drills, mainly the Vaderstad." Simbas Guy Leversha says that while there are no plans to offer the Duett band-sowing coulter as a retrofit option, CO drills have been available since 1999. "There are some second-hand machines available now. We have sold about 250 units in the UK." The 4m version is the most popular and costs £28,795 new.

&#8226 Better spatial arrangement.

&#8226 Better light interception.

&#8226 Lower power/m to pull.

&#8226 Less disease.

&#8226 More yield at less cost?