Farmer Focus: Ten months to find a narrow strip-till machine

With spring drilling done and dusted we have started inter-row hoeing our winter crops. 

We focused on our winter beans first as they were particularly weedy. Most of the “weeds” are volunteer spring oats from harvest 2019 and so any that have escaped in the row will be harvested with the beans and then separated out on a gravity table after harvest. It’s this year’s unintended bi-cropping trial!

See also: Tips on getting the most from clubroot-resistant OSR varieties

We’ve also hoed all the winter wheat we managed to get in and started phase one of our living mulch trial which is my second attempt to develop an organic low till system. Our trial will run as follows:

In-between our 120mm crop bands we have 200mm of space where we have sown white clover at 7.5kg/ha comprising 80% AberAce wild white clover and 20% AberHerald which will remain in the ground for the rest of the rotation and possibly beyond.

The plan is then to strip-till the 120mm cropping rows and plant spring oats in early 2021 and so on. Lambs will be fattened on the clover to keep it in check before winter. 

Organically I believe that we still need to be able to clean the crop rows as well as mineralise some of the nutrients we build up during the rotation to get our crops going, hence opting for strip-till rather than no-till. 

I’m also concerned that having a living mulch across 100% of the field will compete for moisture and nutrients with my cash crop which I have seen in the past in thick under-sown leys. 

I’ve got 10 months to find or make the machine to achieve that narrow 120mm strip. 

We have the will so there must be a way.