Make the weather do the work and save fuel

3 October 1997

Make the weather do the work and save fuel

Work with the weather –

not against it. That is this

autumns cost-cutting tip

from finalists in this years

FW/Brown Butlin Unit Cost

Challenge. Andrew Blake


THERE is still scope to trim establishment costs at Old Leake, Boston, Lincs, says manager and competition winner Dean Allwood. But the need to plough all his land to bury heavy crop residues limits flexibility.

At an estimated £101/ha (£41/acre) for establishing wheat last year Mr Allwood spent more than any of the six finalists. This autumn some savings have already been forced on him.

Stubble work with a Hankmo cultivator is the norm to incorporate chopped straw into the soil. But wet weather meant this had to be shelved to avoid interfering with ploughing. "I reckon it has saved us £5/acre. The down side is that we may be ploughing up mats of straw next year.

"We are trying to use the weather rather than horse-power," he says. Land for wheat after peas and onions has come down well with discing. But flat-lifting has been essential to undo soil structure damage from the wet summer. "We have had some horrendous ruts from combining."

Precisely how much that cost is open to debate, he suggests. "Our Steiger tractor which pulls the flat-lift is 18-years-old and basically written off."

Main area for further savings is on land destined for second wheat which has been ploughed, disced and rolled. Should the weather remain dry when drilling can no longer be delayed a new 6m Dowdeswell Speed Tilla cultivation train will be brought into action. Until then Mr Allwood prefers to wait for rain to break clods ahead of his Lely combination drill. By not forcing a seed-bed he could save up to £20/ha (£8/acre), he estimates.

A new tillage train helps speed the drill at Old Leake. Dean Allwood hopes natural weathering will do much of the work for him on later sowings.

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