1 October 1999

Drillings off

to good start

By Charles Abel

SPEEDY cultivations and drillings have seen wheat off to a good start at Nocton Ltd, host farm for the Cereals 2000 event next June.

"At one point we were 30% drilled up where we were only 10% done at the same time last year," says crops manager Martin Reams. By Sept 24 progress was still well ahead of last year, half the wheat being in and only land after beet and potatoes awaiting the drill.

Key to this years success is minimum pass cultivation and a 6m Vaderstad drill working at up to 17km/h (10.5mph).

"Drill operator Dominic Pearson takes a real pride in the job, constantly adjusting the drill to minimise trash problems and make the best job possible, even at 17kmh," Mr Reams enthuses. Output typically tops 50ha (120 acres) a day.

Just 8% of wheats are second cereals. Most drilled so far are behind vining peas, requiring two passes with a disc and press to create a firm, tight seedbed. After roots and first wheats, an extra pass with the discs, with a 7-leg Flow-King sub-soiler used between, corrects soil compaction as needed.

Seed rates are being wound a little lower, with site and variety as important as simply cutting for early sowings, says Mr Reams. Field records help tailor rates.

"Hereward, for example, did 8.93t/ha from a Dec 9 drilling, compared with 7.71t/ha from a lower seed rate drilled on Nov 30. The question is did we have enough seed for the earlier sowing? The important thing is that we have the data and we can ask the question and learn from our experiences."

Slug baiting three or four days pre-sowing has been a success so far this year, avoiding grain hollowing and re-treatment. All seed-beds are chitted and sprayed with Roundup pre-drilling, 2litres/ha (1.4 pints/acre) proving cheaper than a lower rate plus adjuvant.

Aggressive seed cleaning has taken thousand grain weights off the drilling calculator, 66g Equinox being typical, Mr Reams comments. "Beret Gold-treated seed is coming up well in seven days from 4cm to avoid slugs."

Variety choice largely reflects results from farm crops and blocks managed for farm-saved seed production.

Consort retains its 30% share with an average yield of 9.56t/ha (3.87t/acre) and 1999 Nocton record yield of 12.02t/ha (4.86t/acre). It is used for all early drillings.

Sowings are now moving on to Equinox and Malacca. Equinox suits later sowings where lodging is a worry. This year it averaged 9.31t/ha (3.77t/acre), most sown after roots as late as Nov 20. None lodged.

New this year is Malacca, following a welcome 12.05t/ha (4.88t/acre) from the seed block. It will be used where standing is less worrying.

Hereward also stays, yielding 8.32t/ha (3.37t/acre) from sowings between Nov 20 and Dec 21. "Most should go for milling, even that harvested after the rains."

Madrigal disappointed with an average of 7.56t/ha (3.06t/acre), so has been dropped. Late-sown Charger proved too lodging prone. Isengrain was tried but dropped failing to match claims for earliness.

Newcomers being tested this year are Claire and Shamrock. "We probably should have had some Claire a year ago," Mr Reams concludes.

NOCTON WHEAT

* 9.1t/ha ave yield 98/99.

* Drilling up to 17km/h.

* Lower seed-rates worked.

* Tailor to site and variety.

* All farm-saved seed.

* New 1m grass margins.

NOCTON WHEAT

&#8226 9.1t/ha ave yield 98/99.

&#8226 Drilling up to 17km/h.

&#8226 Lower seed-rates worked.

&#8226 Tailor to site and variety.

&#8226 All farm-saved seed.

&#8226 New 1m grass margins.