24 October 2001
How do you lo-till spring beans?
We have a Simba Freeflow drill. Can we use it for lo-till sowing spring beans? What pre-sowing cultivations would be necessary? The soil type is medium clay loam.
Theres no definite answer because no two seasons are the same, but heres our experience:
1999/2000: Our spring beans performed best where we disced in the autumn, sprayed off in early march (with glyphosate) and drilled about two weeks later.
We rolled afterwards, applying 1/2 rate simazine and Bullet (cyanazine + pendimethalin) as weed control.
2000/2001: The spring beans that were direct-drilled into sprayed-off stubbles performed by far the best.
This was probably due to the fact that we got on earlier (by 2 weeks) and had not damaged the soil structure trying to drill into what was still saturated soil.
Not only did the direct-drilled fields yield better, but we had far less of a problem with weed control.
The cultivated land had to be ploughed this autumn to bury all the trash. The direct drilled fields just needed one pass with the discs to establish the following wheat crop.
In an ideal world all the cultivations would be done under dry conditions in the autumn, so drilling can be carried out in the spring with the minimum of soil disturbance.
We use a triple disc drill which can direct-drill beans to three inches without any difficulty, how a tined machine would cope without any pre-cultivations is difficult to say.
We will be direct-drilling our spring beans next year (2002), into wheat stubbles which will be sprayed off with glyphosate in the next week or so, and then sprayed off again a week or so prior to drilling (which will no earlier than March).
The Freeflow can be used successfully for sowing spring beans.
The main problem I experience with this drill is from the front tines making the soil too loose, so try drilling with the tines not working at all (you might need some for wheel eradication).
A shallow cultivation might help to create some soil flow and to level the field, but I would try without doing anything and drill straight in.
With 20/20 hindsight, I would have cultivated in the autumn to flush grass weeds, especially blackgrass. This would then have reduced the need to cultivate in the spring.