1 November 1996

Five-leg subsoilers a runaway success

CULTIVATION techniques remained much the same as usual with all the land ploughed except after the potatoes. But a new five-leg sub-soiler from Littleport-based Tim Howard, replacing an expensive-to-run Shakaerator, has proved a big success.

"It is an excellent machine very well-engineered," says Mr Middle-ditch. "It was also notably cheaper than similar tackle from other well-known firms."

Ground conditions before the rain were perfect for improving the soil at depth. "We used it before ploughing the vining pea land and got some good shattering." A second-hand set of 12m (39ft) Vaderstad rolls, replacing a lighter set half the width, broke clods better and left well-consolidated seed-beds. "Our cereals are really looking well."

Drilling rate for the winter barley was pulled back to 140kg/ha (126lb/acre) to try to lift specific weights. "400 plants a sq m on our light soils is too thick." Local suggestions were that early sown wheat could have gone in at as little as 65kg/ha (52lb/acre). "But that is disturbingly low and we did not dare do it," says Mr Middle-ditch, who eventually used the same rate as for the barley. "One of our neighbours caught a cold last year when crops did not get away well on some difficult land. Cutting rates is for perfect conditions."

Most of the cereal seed, all C2 generation, was bought in from one source, Simpsons of Darsham, with dressings kept to just two to ease drill calibration. "We used Sibutol on the wheat and Raxil S on the barley really as a basic insurance. We try to work in blocks and do not like having to keep changing settings. It is surprising how the same dressings from different companies can sometimes run completely differently." Baytan (fuberidazole + triadimenol), once used on all the wheat but which has created occasional problems with late drillings, has not been used for two years.

Oilseed rape had to be treated against flea beetle, and forward wheats soon merited an anti-BYDV insecticide – Hero (lambda-cyhalothrin) being used for its persistency.

Herbicides, bought as needed and undoubtedly costing more than last season, are isoproturon based, though the mixtures are being adjusted to try to cut the IPU input in line with MAFF urgings.

Plans for this season include a switch from solid to liquid nitrogen, mainly for environmental reasons, says Mr Middleditch. "I am fed up with not being able to get the headlands done correctly. There does not appear to be a spreader on the market that does so without a lot of fiddling about. We set up our machine for one product and as soon as you change to another it goes straight into the hedge."

Gearing up for the new approach will merit a new Bateman self-propelled sprayer with full suspension to cope with the extra workload, he says.

First sugar beet liftings, for the Ipswich factory, have gone well. But potatoes, even though all green-top lifted through the Wrentham Vegetables, are unlikely to hit budget. "There have been some horrendous prices about." &#42

Wheats and barleys have established well in the moist autumn, says Roger Middleditch.