9 November 2001

Time-saving plough press shows worth

A NEW Dowdeswell plough press (Arable, Sept 14), allowing the combination drills to work straight into newly-turned land, has proved a big success.

"It certainly saved us a pass in most places and it allowed us to get much better, compact seed-beds with fewer wheelings especially on our heavier land," says Tim Lock. "Sadly, it was only after its picture appeared in farmers weekly that the dealer remembered to invoice me for its nearly £4000 price."

Fitted behind the six-furrow plough, the new tool allowed one man to create near-drillable land on nearly all the 480ha (1200 acres).

"He started in July on set-aside and just kept going. But when we got back on the home farm I discovered why father never had a press. Some fields are just too steep to keep it in work and on others we simply could not get enough traction to pull it as well as the plough. On about 150 acres we had to drop it and use a pressure harrow instead."

With hindsight, given good establishment and the mild October, seed rates ranging around 150kg/ha (120lb/acre) could have been trimmed.

"Our crops have been galloping away and it worries me how we are going to manage them and how they will react if it suddenly turns cold. They could all be finished tillering before Christmas. I just wish we could train rabbits to graze crops evenly, though its noticeable that there are a lot fewer about now, probably because of myxomatosis."

Slugs have caused no problems to date and no pellets have been required. Mr Lock suspects any damage has been masked by rapid crop growth. "But we have also managed to roll most fields which should help. We need to roll anyway for stones and I hate doing it in the spring."

About one-third of the autumn spraying programme was completed by the start of November. "Our biggest problem with it being so wet is that we havent been able to get onto our earliest drillings on heavy land.

"Luckily it was all Secur-treated, but I am concerned we may not be able to get a cypermethrin/herbicide mix onto it now." That would leave a bigger spring weed clean-up bill and risk more BYDV, he says.

With wild oats regularly needing spring treatment, autumn herbicide policy remains based on IPU or chlortoluron with an added pyrethroid against BYDV. "We know we are going have to go again for wild oats, so we try to keep it cheap and cheerful in the autumn."

On Bartholomews agronomist John Metcalfes advice IPU rates are 1.5-4 litres/ha depending on field history.

"We used chlortoluron on the one field where we have a bit more of a blackgrass problem, and Panther where broad-leaved weeds are more the target." &#42