The drill demonstration, held by Hutchinsons and CAS, at Ashton Grange Farm, near Runcorn, was put together to highlight the performance of different drills when establishing wheat into a cover crop.
Kindly hosted by Stephen and Andrew Shaw last autumn, the trials have resulted in some interesting differences following plant counts taken just after establishment and in the spring.
“When it comes to deciding which drill to buy, or cover crop to sow, there is clearly no one-size-fits-all answer. Every farm, field and soil is different, and everyone has their preferred brand, not to mention budget,” explained agronomist Daniel Baron.
“We wanted to trial several types of disc and tine drills and look at differences in the wheat establishment as well as looking at the impact of a starter fertiliser
“The high rainfall in the north-west is one of the biggest challenges to crop establishment and production,” added Mr Baron. “Up here we are looking at average rainfall of 900mm.”
“Cover crops potentially play an important role in helping to pull moisture out of the ground and help dry up soils to widen the drilling window. It all comes down to being able to get onto the fields to drill in the autumn.”
The ten-hectare field, previously down as potatoes, was divided into sections, just under one hectare each, with three types of cover crop drilled with a range of different systems.
Established in August these consisted of :
- Maxi Cover- Buckwheat, white mustard and berseem clover- Designed for rapid growth
- Maxi Veg- Linseed, buckwheat phacelia and crimson clover
- Maxi Impact- Sunflowers, linseed, buckwheat, phacelia, crimson clover and berseem clover
On the 15th of September, Extase winter wheat was drilled at 168kg per hectare, aiming for 330 seeds per m2, with a 20% field loss factored in for a final count of 260 seeds.
“We also wanted to look at the effect that a starter fertiliser such as Primary P would have on the crop, so for the plots drilled with the Horsch, Avatar, Sky, Mzuri and Claydon drills, 10kg/ha of Primary P was used on half the plot,” added Mr Baron.
Mr Baron said: “By the 19th of October, we were able to see some clear differences in the establishment that showed that generally, disc drills coped better than tine drills with high residue levels.”
“Looking at individual drill performance, the Horsch Avatar had the best average establishment and the Kverneland U Drill did an excellent job even though not marketed as a direct drill.”
“Most noticeably, Primary P had a significant impact on the establishment with a 20-30% improvement over those plots that did not receive any. Plant counts were taken again in mid-February and there was still a clear benefit from those trials that received the Primary-P.”
“We will take the plots to harvest and then we will have the complete picture and be in a position to draw some final conclusions.”