How Northants unit plans early drilling
By Louise Impey
MINIMAL cultivations and farm-saved seed mean the rain-delayed harvest will have little impact on drilling progress on one Northants farm this autumn. Rape is already in and wheat drilling starts next week.
Managing 162ha (400 acres) of heavy land at Rectory Farm, Lower Benefield, Oundle, Simon Thompson has recorded over 76mm (3in) of rain since Aug 7.
As a result, Madrigal, Escort and Apex oilseed rape has been broadcast into standing wheat to meet optimum drilling dates. "Ive seen the technique used locally and it has worked well," he says.
Most land destined for wheat has been sub-soiled where required, disced to 7.6cm (3in) and pressed. "We only disc once and the aim is to create enough tilth to take up any moisture. Non-inversion tillage has many advantages here. It helps with the breakdown of straw and forms part of our grass weed control strategy. It also ensures that we remain on time with our operations."
Seed-beds are sprayed with Sting (glyphosate) pre-drilling to remove the first flush of blackgrass. A Sulky combination drill reduces passes and cost and provides the precision needed for low seed rate early drilling.
Mr Thompson aims for a very fine seed-bed to ensure even germination, but admits the current economic climate means he cant be too fussy. Rotational ploughing reduces take-all in second wheats.
Most seed is farm-saved for lower cost and better quality. "It is cleaned and dressed so we have the biggest, boldest sample. We also have it tested for disease and germination and always use a seed treatment. For the last few years, it has been Beret Gold (fludioxonil), which has given us uniform establishment and no seedling disease problems."
To avoid contamination, seed is never taken from tramlines or headlands. "We also know the weed problems here and believe we have better traceability with our own seed. It also means there is no shortage or problem with supply."
Using farm-saved seed saves £100/t, he estimates. "This year we saved Savannah and Consort for our own use and next year were going to try growing 10ha of Claire on a seed contract."
Drilling should start on Sept 10 at 180 seeds/sq m. "But were also going to follow ARC advice and drill one field on Sept 1 at 100 seeds/sq m as an experiment. ARC work shows Consort is the best variety at this date. Ill be using slug pellets, too."
Earlier drilling means an autumn anti-BYDV insecticide is needed, but manganese deficiency means a foliar spray goes on at that timing anyway.
Weed control is the other autumn priority, with blackgrass sprayed at the 2-3 leaf stage. "We have a lot of small fields, so there are plenty of headlands for the blackgrass to spread from. One advantage of getting even, rapid crop establishment is the weeds germinate evenly. That makes it easier to control them in the autumn," he says.