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Autocasting will get oilseed rape in early to withstand flea beetle

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A Northamptonshire farm is sowing oilseed rape when combining the earlier cereal crop, chopping prices and getting the rapeseed off to an excellent early begin on its mild land.

The strategy of bolting an autocast applicator behind the mix header locations rapeseed on the bottom, which is then coated by chopped straw from the mix.

This strategy can be getting used to sow catch and canopy crops.

Michael Gent, his father, John, and agronomist Damian McAuley, from impartial agronomy group Indigro, got here up with the strategy which saves the £50-£60/ha price of direct-drilling and likewise conserves very important soil moisture beneath a mattress of chopped straw.

“We’d like to verify we go early to get good institution and mitigate the risk from cabbage stem flea beetle,” says Mr Gent.

See additionally: Oilseed rape makes a return with an early begin

Farm information

G L Gent and Son, Oundle Lodge, Oundle, Northamptonshire

  • Farms 600ha
  • Consists of 500ha of arable rising wheat, barley and oilseed rape, with the remaining grassland
  • Beef cattle and sheep graze grassland
  • Largely mild limestone soils

Flea beetle assaults

Early sowing and moisture retention is important on the farm’s mild land, as early germinating oilseed rape will probably be extra more likely to survive flea beetle assaults.

Zero soil disturbance additionally means a decrease likelihood of the seed-bed drying out.

The set off to buy the autocast system was the farm’s proposed transfer right into a Greater Tier Countryside Stewardship scheme, which can embrace establishing cowl crops earlier than rising low-input spring cereals.

The Gent household’s Oundle Lodge, simply south of the eponymous city, farms 600ha, of which 500ha is arable with the remaining grassland.

The upper tier environmental scheme was chosen as there are wealthy water meadows on the flood plain of the River Nene.

The farm moved to direct-drilling its oilseed rape in summer season 2020 with its personal 3m Weaving GD drill, however that entails a separate operation at a price of about £50-£60/ha.

Mild land 

The farm’s mild land produces solely reasonable oilseed rape yields of about 3t/ha, with this summer season’s yield ticking as much as 3.2t/ha. So the purpose was to cut back prices as a lot as attainable with out hitting yields.

Oilseed rape is grown as soon as each 4 years within the present rotation.

In the course of the summer season, the father-and-son workforce, Mr McAuley and chief tractor driver Ben Wainwright hatched a plan primarily based round broadcasting seed from the mix by way of an autocaster.

Mr Wainwright’s earlier farm expertise of autocasting proved invaluable for shifting to the brand new institution system.

An Autocast V2 applicator was purchased from Techneat Engineering, which was mounted on the rear of the 25ft header of the farm’s Claas Vario 660 mix.

© MAG/David Jones

The twin-hopper system of the autocaster permits rapeseed to be positioned on the bottom together with a companion crop from one hopper, and slug pellets from the opposite.

Within the autocast machine, seed is metered into an airstream which is then distributed to quite a few shops equally spaced throughout the complete width of the mix header.

Selection selection 

Oilseed rape

Oilseed rape © MAG/David Jones

Farm-saved seed of standard rapeseed selection Campus was used, at a seed price of 4.5kg/ha.

This was combined with berseem clover to repair the nitrogen and assist the oilseed rape root properly, somewhat than deflecting flea beetle assaults.

Seed mix in hands

Seed combine © Autocast

The cereal stubble was reduce excessive, at the least 150mm, to create a good unfold of chopped straw over the rapeseed/clover seed combine.

The bottom was then pressed and rolled to present good seed-to-soil contact and protect all-important soil moisture.

Some 40ha of oilseed rape sown on the farm in the summertime adopted winter wheat, and due to the late harvest, the wheat needed to be sprayed off with glyphosate to get an early reduce of the wheat on 7-Eight August.

Mr Gent sees clear benefits from the system equivalent to chopping prices, lowering soil compaction and enhancing moisture retention beneath the layer of chopped straw.

This creates a micro-climate beneath the straw, the place newly-germinated rapeseed crops can flourish.

He says he has discovered it tough prior to now to direct-drill rapeseed via such a thick layer of chopped straw.

Date of sowing 

Mustard catch crops

Mustard catch crop © MAG/David Jones

The drawback of the system is that there’s much less management over the date of sowing on the farm, because it relies upon of the harvest date of the earlier cereal crop.

Mr Gent believes the perfect time to sow oilseed rape on the farm is the final week of July to the primary week of August.

The enterprise additionally has one other 40ha of oilseed rape on contract-farmed heavier land, which adopted winter barley.

The barley was reduce within the final week of July, the straw baled after which direct-drilled as quickly as attainable.

This direct-drilled crop has given barely higher institution than the autocast crop, which he places right down to the sooner drilling date and the heavier land. Ideally, oilseed rape would observe winter barley on his mild land.

The autocast system can be used on the farm to sow mustard as a catch crop between two crops of winter cereals – the seed combine prices lower than £10/ha.

Then the following cereal crop is direct-drilled into the mustard.

“We discover that with direct-drilling, it’s simpler to drill into inexperienced because the mustard roots preserve the soil in an excellent situation,” he says.

Cowl crops

Cover crop

Cowl crop © MAG/David Jones

Autocasting has moreover been used to ascertain 60ha of canopy crops in the summertime, in anticipation of the stewardship scheme.

The farm workforce have chosen a five-way mixture of phacelia, buckwheat, berseem clover, vetch and black oats, costing £20-£30/ha.

The farm is hoping to utilise choices throughout the stewardship scheme, such because the harvesting of low-input cereals (AB14), paying £266/ha a 12 months, and winter cowl crops (SW6), paying £116/ha a 12 months.

The quilt crops will assist enhance the farm’s soils and provides winter feed for sheep and cattle, in addition to bringing within the stewardship cash.

Mr Gent says a following crop of spring barley yielding, for instance, 6t/ha, can have the equal yield of 8t/ha-plus when considering the return from the stewardship scheme.

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