Farmer Focus: New cultivator completes controlled traffic farming jigsaw

The stars of harvest so far have been firstly the Redekop chopper on the combine, with near perfect chop and straw distribution residue management.

Post-combine is going to be very easy going forward with less of a habitat for slugs and less nitrogen lock up, which can only help the following crop.

Engineering advances from both Case IH and Redekop have resulted in a virtually maintenance-free build, with a low horsepower requirement for the chopper maintaining high output from the combine.

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With shallow cultivation being part of our blackgrass strategy, this chopper is an essential part of the new regime.

The second star of harvest so far is our new 12.5m Farmet Phantom cultivator. Not only is it the final piece of our controlled traffic jigsaw and it looks like fuel savings will cover the depreciation cost of it.

The goal with this machine was to reduce our cultivation depth with as much accuracy as possible as I’m trying resist that urge to go deeper than a couple of inches.

We know we can control shallow germinated blackgrass, it’s the deeper rooted we can’t control.

The machine itself is a combination of lots of narrow-tipped points and high strength breakout springs on top, with depth control managed by lots of depth wheels and a packer.

So far we’ve been able to manage the depth to exactly 50mm, definitely a new phenomenon for us.

Disappointing best describes the early part of harvest as oilseed rape and winter barley yields fall well below the farm’s five year average.

I’m blaming a severe lack of sunlight at grain fill, although a few wise words from my predecessor ring true, “our big clay soils never reward you if they lay too wet through the winter”.

With regular ditch maintenance, rotational mole-ploughing and controlled traffic practices, I’m not sure what more we could do to move water off land. More head scratching on this subject is required I think.

At the time of writing we had just completed our first 10ha of wheat with a very pleasing yield, at least all yields aren’t bad.

Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Fruit Farms. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.