Saturday, 8 March 2014

Cross Slot And Cover Crops Farm Walk

Basking in the first real sunshine of the spring, and on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far; in conduction with Agrii we hosted a fan walk looking at direct drilling and the use of cover crops on the farm.  We had farmers from as far a field as Kent (Tom Sewell and Guy Eckley) and Lincolnshire (Jono Dixon) and Wiltshire (George Hosier) as well as many closer to home.  The interest shown and the discussions started really made for a very interesting and educational day. 
We talked about drilling techniques and could direct drilling have an effect on weed populations and what about slugs with more crop residue (not trash) on the crop surface?  Can we control these issues more effectively with better, longer crop rotations, direct drilling and with less reliance on pesticides?  We talked about subsoiling and should we be doing it or whether we could use cover crops, as demonstrated by Jono (below) to do the subsoiling for us?
The roots of the cover crops can easily go down to 1m over an autumn and winter if planted early enough; the ideal time is when the combine is still in the field, when moisture is usually available to get the crop off to the perfect start, or even spun into the crop pre-harvest.
We also talked about the blend, or the mix of the cover crops and what purpose they are being grown for.  Are they there to protect the soil surface, or to remove compaction or to increase organic matter or to provide a winter forage supply for the livestock?  We also talked about nitrogen fertiliser and should we be investing in fertiliser to maximise the benefits of the crop and the financial investment of the seed?  It really was a great morning of very thought provoking idea sharing.  We ended up in the Yew Tree pub for chips and sandwiches before everyone headed home.  Thanks to everyone who turned up and contributed, and to Agrii for supplying the bacon rolls and the lunch!