Shallow min-till cultivation plots cut the mustard yet again

Shallo min-till cultivation plots cut

A settled spell of good weather enabled AMAZONE’s establishment trial plots at Tickhill, which this year were in second wheat, to be put through the plot combine. Our thanks again go to NIAB TAG for their cooperation in the harvesting and results analysis.

The establishment trials, which are now in their 7th harvest, are designed to look at how sustainable in the long term various degrees of reduced tillage are. In those 7 years the same cultivator has worked at the same depth followed by same drill across each of the twelve plots. This varies through 4 levels of soil tillage - from an 8cm shallow stubble cultivation through to a medium-shallow min-till site at 15cm worked with a Cenius mulch cultivator and then alongside that a 22cm deep min-till plot done with the same tool. The inversion tillage plots are ploughed and then worked off on the top with a Catros compact disc harrow. The plots are then drilled with a Cayena tine seeder, a Cirrus cultivator drill and an AD-P power harrow / drill combi. Any subsequent husbandry operations are carried out by the host farmers, P & C. Dook and are a blanket application across the whole field as well as the plots.

Last year’s crop of JB Diego was drilled on 15th October 2015 into a dry seedbed at 350 seed/m2 and got off to a patchy start ahead of any degree of rain with the more heavily worked soils struggling to get away more than the shallow and medium min-till plots where soil moisture had been retained. This showed in the plant populations with the 8cm shallow worked stubble plots sitting above the rest and the Cirrus drilled plots doing well across the board, helped by the targeted reconsolidation provided by the Matrix tyre roller on the drill. After a few weeks the crop evened out and the different establishment methods were perfectly uniform in the spring.

Following on from last year’s foray into precision sowing cereals at reduced seed rates, the trial was repeated at 90 seeds/m2 drilled on 25cm wide row spacings. Last year, with the spacing between seeds being so good giving the plant the chance to tiller, it produced huge ears with up to 50% more seeds per head than the conventionally drilled plots. Yield from these EDX drilled plots came in at around 4% below the field average even with less than a third of the seed corn used. This year, the EDX precision drills plots produced 11.8 t/ha; a yield drop of 9% against the field average but with a seed corn cost saving of around 75%. Next year we will look at returning to 50 cm row spacings as a comparison.

The yield results generally show again the strong performance of the shallow and medium-shallow drilled plots with above average yields in comparison to the deeper drilled plots. Put this against the diesel savings of around 20 litres/ha and it makes gross margin start to look even more interesting. To analyse this year's trials then download the full results here. The plots for 2016/17 will be going into winter barley as we get into the autumn drilling season.