Tramline method shows way to cut crop losses
A simple tramlining
technique is helping one Lincs
sugar beet grower cut crop
losses and make significant
savings on input costs
WHEN Lincs sugar beet grower David Nelstrop moved to a trailed sprayer, he found wheel damage in the beet crop unacceptably high.
So he did his sums and found that taking out two rows of beet and harvesting three instead of four between the tramlines allowed significant input savings without severely affecting yield.
Farming 445ha (1100 acres) of rented and contract farmed land around Linwood, Market Rasen, Mr Nelstrop grows 50ha (125 acres) of sugar beet, half in the variety Madison and the rest to Oberon and Saxon.
"We plant our beet in 18in rows with a 12-row drill. In the old days we had a 12m self-propelled sprayer, which meant we had to reduce to 11m to fit the rows," he explains. "About four years ago we replaced the self-propelled sprayer with a 20m mounted sprayer which we put on the back of 135hp tractor."
He has calculated the best way to tramline the crops is to drill the field as normal, then the sprayer operator drives into the crop in 20m bouts, lining up a row down the middle of the bonnet. This means he drives down one row of beet with each rear wheel, leaving three in between. The sprayer simply crushes the seedling beet, leaving a wide tramline for each wheel.
"It seems extravagant but I worked out we would waste no more than £200 worth of beet seed a year. The other way was to fit a solenoid on each of the sugar beet drill hoppers to programme them not to drill seed in given rows.
"The £200 we lose in seed would barely pay for one solenoid marker, and on that basis I worked it out it would take me 12 years to recover the cost of the solenoids alone!" says Mr Nelstrop.
In effect, he has a 36in wide tramline wheeling, which allows the sprayer to move around without compacting the adjacent rows.
"With the small sprayer we were running between rows, but very close to them, which was reducing the yield from four rows. Now, instead of losing a bit of yield on four rows, we lose the lot on two rows and take a full yield from the rest," he adds.
More accurate spray application, even when canopies are complete across the rows, speedier working and cleaner harvesting are other benefits, he maintains.
Mr Nelstrops farming operation covers three distinct soil types: Light, medium loam and heavy, in almost equal proportions. This year his sugar beet follows wheat on the light and medium soils. The heavy soil is entirely combinable crops, wheat, rape, beans.
His attention to detail with sugar beet has won him a contract with seed breeder Danisco to grow their latest varieties in a series of commercial establishment trials. This year, 6.5ha (16 acres) have been drilled with its varieties Madison and Madrid.
"For Danisco, it is very useful, as I get seed from all its different seed lots, so they can come and look at the drilling and establishment of each lot. We mark everything so they can trace back to individual seed lots and check the establishment within clearly identified rows," says Mr Nelstrop.
"We put each seed lot into individual coulter hoppers on the drill. This year we had five coulters with Madison, one with Madrid and two of Madison dressed with Advantage; each was a different seed lot within the variety."
The crops are treated exactly as the rest of his commercial acreage and are bulk harvested. Last year he achieved 57t/ha (23t/acre) of clean beet.
Danisco Seed UKs managing director, Jane Carmichael, places great emphasis on such commercial establishment trials. "We gain invaluable information from these trials. It is so important to have such checks in place to ensure we maintain our very high quality standards.
"The trials at Linwood are all showing very good levels of establishment with good vigorous growth," says Dr Carmichael. "There is no discernible difference between any of the seed lots in terms of plant population, speed of emergence and plant vigour. This is exactly what we would hope for, as we aim to supply the highest possible quality of seed lots to British Sugar for pelleting." *
• Drill field as normal.
• Sprayer wheels create tramline.
• Seed loss costs less than electronic tramlining.
• Faster, more accurate spraying.
• Yield losses negligible.
Tramlining beet does not need any fancy electronic drilling equipment, says Lincs grower David Nelstrop (right). Here he checks out spray records with his operator, Ken Brooks.