Maintaining a customer base within a 20-mile radius of his Beelsby House Farm, near Grimsby, farmer and contractor Jonathan Fenwick is a man with a plan. His oilseed rape area continues to expand with his team aiming to plant around 1400ha (3500 acres) this season.
He will also become the first UK contractor to use the new Nitrojet system from Opico, which applies fertiliser in bands at the same time as till-seeding, so cutting the number of operations required to establish an OSR crop.
According to Mr Fenwick, more farmers are asking for OSR crops to be established using till-seeding to significantly lower their establishment costs. And the two previous wet harvests also led to a rise in farmers needing “fire brigade” plantings, having abandoned any hope of preparing soils using more traditional methods.
After his own initial scepticism of the method he started till-seeding rape in 2004 across the 890 ha (2200 acres) he manages and then became hooked following improved work rates and much lower establishment costs. Furthermore, crops of till seeded OSR at 2.5kg/ha versus plough based sown with 4.5kg/ha gave a yield rise of 0.6t/ha.
Customers are increasingly asking for oilseed rape to be established using till-seeding and brand applied fertiliser, according to Jonathan Fenwick.
“Subsoiler tines generally work at 250mm depth set at 500mm tine leg centres following adjustment along the Heva frame. The hydraulic depth control is particularly useful when working tramlines and waterlogged areas. Seed is placed behind subsoiler tines and rates vary between 1 to 4kg/ha depending on the soil type.”
Mr Fenwick claims work rates of up to 30ha/day (70acres) are possible in good conditions. “The success of till seeding also relies on rolling and ensuring robust slug control after planting,” he adds.
Now, his growers have also been asking for seedbed nitrogen application at planting. On those farms, an 800-litre Nitrojet liquid fertiliser application system fitted to the till-seeding outfit will be used for the first time.
“We’ll be adding nitrogen and phosphate to the precise point where seeds and young plants need it. This method means we can increase rates and feed high yielding crops correctly during autumn while working within RB209 recommendations. It also help farmers tackle the 30kg/ha autumn applied N max limit to keep within Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.”