Couple of good frosts over the last couple of days have hardened ground enough to travel so, although unconventional, we thought we have nothing to loose taking the drill out to see if it could do a job in these conditions.
The fields in question today are just a couple of small bits that are parts of blocks of land already drilled that we didn’t get done before wet weather beat us, if this works or not it will be no great loss so surely worth a try !
this is the field, it was winter oats and had sewage sludge applied back in September therefore it did get a cultivation from a set of discs as is legally required when applying sewage sludge. This cultivation was probably the reason it didn’t get drilled when the rest of the block did !
so here it is after the drill has been through – slot closing and most seed covered well, seed rate is 200kg/ha here variety Cordiale with a TGW of 42, no slug pellets being applied as I reckon pressure should be much lower now frosty weather is here
Short video of the drill at work
I think it’s going quite well so the plan is to get set up latter today to put a 100ac block in tomorrow early morning
Over the last few days we have had a total of over 80mm of rainfall. This on top of what has been to date the wettest year for over 100 years here has left land sodden, local roads flooded and thousands of acres underwater
After lunch today I decided to take a look at a few blocks of our wheat to see how badly they had been affected, honestly I feared the worst and that much of it would probably be underwater but what I did see is truly remarkable.
The picture below shows one of our fields of wheat that has been pictured before elsewhere in this blog, I couldn’t believe how well it has taken this latest deluge of water, In previous dryer years this is a field that does suffer from some wet areas – but today it looks just fine !
turning around 180 deg and looking through the hedge to neighbors land which is of identical soil type, the same elevation and was established within a week of our crop using a plough and power harrow combo this is what I could see !……………I don’t fancy it’s chances at all
even our headlands seem to have escaped water logging which was something we regularly saw when we used the vaderstad drill
and here is what my boot looked like after walking over about 100ac didn’t even bother to change to my wellies ! incidentally this was one of the fields that was maybe 1ft tall with volunteer OSR when drilled 7 weeks ago, trash has mostly gone now as the worms pull it into the ground
I really am finding this remarkable now, I expected soil structure to improve over time but really had no expectations to see changes like this so soon, it would travel with a sprayer if we needed to.
A quick look around crops today I had chance to take a few pictures – things not looking bad really despite the constant wet weather and high slug pressure this season. Certainly looking over hedgerows at neighbours crops established via more conventional methods I would not want to swap positions with them right now !
Wheat after OSR looking down the rows
We have kept well on top of slug problems so far despite vast numbers present pre drilling. I think that drilling crops with minimal soil disturbance has kept the problem on top and therefore much easier to target with pellet applications.
We have used exclusively Ferric Phosphate based pellets this year, this natural product is certified for use in organic farming systems and is less harmful to soil organisms and biology which I hope over time will help the build up of natural predators to slugs and other pests.
The presence of volunteers plants from the previous crop has many advantages. It has given the slugs something other than wheat to feed on reducing pressure, helped to dry and cultivate soil through it’s rooting and ultimately as it dies back will return valuable organic matter and nutrients to the soil. We plan to use mixed species cover crops to further improve the soils ahead of spring crops and “harvest” as much sunlight and water as possible, we are working towards a situation where we never have a bare field with the cover crops or volunteers filling in the gaps between our cash crops.
Ok so this was never part of the plan but needs must in a difficult weather year ! so drilling some second wheat today
slot closing very well really considering less than ideal conditions
Hire 6930 has gone back now so using our only tractor – plenty of power not that it’s needed but just looking at fuel use still only 3.5l/ha being used despite this obscene use of HP ! We have removed all weight from the tractor getting it down to just under 11t allowing the Michelins to be run at 6psi – i’t not ideal though and the tractor is a hang over from our old mintill system that will hopefully be swapped for something lighter, cheaper and lower powered for next year
It will get 3l/ha of glyphosate within the next 7 days – hopefully slugs will be less of an issue here after wheat rather than the OSR – there are some sticky headlands that might not look so pretty but I think with 30% of our wheat still to get in we have to push things a little now
Bit of an update from a look around today
starting to look more like a sown crop now, pleased with how headlands have come
slugs are grazing though in places and we might loose a few patches yet
overall very happy, it would not have looked like this had we established with our old routine