14 September 2001

Growers sticking with low seed rate strategy

By Andrew Swallow

TWO growers involved in the Sector Challenge project to promote canopy management techniques are so impressed with results that low seed rates will be a key feature on their farms this autumn.

"The yield is quite embarrassing really, it has done so well," says South Yorks grower John Hollingworth, one of a team of growers involved in the HGCA/DTI/ADAS project.

Consort, drilled on Sept 4 last year at 78kg/ha, put 170t over a local weighbridge off just 16ha (40 acres). "Thats a yield of 10.63t/ha for the whole field, which is unheard of on this farm."

This autumns seed rates have been slashed as a result. Claire following oilseed rape went in across 120ha at 50kg/ha, aiming for 120-125 seeds/sq m in early September, increasing to 70kg/ha where seed-beds were cloddy or close to woods.

That is a far cry from the 100-125kg/ha used previously. "After my experience it is the way forward," he says.

Fellow Sector Challenge grower Robert Davidson (Arable, Oct 13, Mar 2) will also be reducing seed rates in Essex, provided conditions on the day permit.

"If we have good seed-beds then we will start with 100-150 seeds/sq m on land after set-aside, about Sept 20." That compares with up to 350-400 seeds used in the past.

Yields in the Challenge crops on his farm were less convincing than Mr Holling-worths, with Shamrock third wheat, sown on Sept 29, delivering 7t/ha, 7.1t/ha and 6.9t/ha from seed rates of 50kg/ha, 100kg/ha and 150kg/ha respectively.

However, poor weather and foot-and-mouth disrupted management, delaying herbicide, fertiliser and fungicide applications, he says. &#42

SECTOR CHALLENGE

&#8226 Yields given growers confidence.

&#8226 Lower seed rates now.

&#8226 Rate matched to drilling date.

&#8226 Lower inputs later on.