Lower seed rate can still pay – even in October

28 September 2001

Lower seed rate can still pay – even in October

By Andrew Blake

REDUCING wheat seed rates, even for October-drilled crops, can provide better gross margins and fewer spring management headaches.

In UAP canopy management trials on medium soils at Rockingham, Northants, and light land at Keysley, Wilts, a range of varieties sown in early to mid-October at 150 and 300 seeds/sq m showed little yield difference.

However, the lower rate approach cut seed costs by about £18/ha (£7.30/acre) and for two varieties on the medium soil, Malacca and Genghis, the lower seed rate produced yield increases of 0.8 and 0.2t/ha, respectively.

Provided canopy management can be applied to the resulting thinner crops, it makes sound economic sense to ease back on drill rates – even in October, says UAPs regional technical manager Peter Gould.

The latest data backs three years of trials in which mid-September drilling and low seed rates gave the best potential gross margins.

"We have a mass of data to show that low seed rate wheats drilled in early to mid-September can allow growers to cut costs by at least £30/ha and boost yields by as much as 2t/ha in some seasons," says Mr Gould.

However, seed rates should be higher than for September, especially if soils are likely to become waterlogged.

"On more difficult medium to heavy soils and also on exposed sites it will probably pay to err on the side of caution and go for 200-250 seeds/sq m for mid-October drillings rather than the 150-175 seeds/sq m on more favourable fields. However, with an open winter and mild conditions, early spring management may have to concentrate on minimising tillering and preventing lodging.

"What we have shown is that there is no need to go up to 350-400 seeds/sq m, which is what a lot of people do, so long as you take care to get reasonable seed-beds."


&#8226 Good scope to trim seed rates.

&#8226 Similar yields from 150 & 300/sq m.

&#8226 Caution unless seed-beds good.

&#8226 Early spring N may be needed.

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