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Talking Arable with Ian Matts: Headland effect on yield must not be forgotten

I am putting this article together a little earlier than usual as I am awaiting the arrival of my firstborn, expected any day now.

I have managed to get everything in place to cover the workload while I take some time away, but unfortunately it is holding on longer than planned. Hopefully becoming a father will help to put a much-needed smile on my face.

 

 

Investment

 

We will shortly be looking to replace one of the sprayers ahead of next season.

 

We put nearly £1.5 million of agchem through each sprayer over its lifetime with us, so it is important to make the right choice.

 

If we can make just a small percentage saving on input costs through the selection of the right machine, this will go a long way towards covering its cost.

 

The difficulty seems to be making sure the promises can be turned into reality after sale, especially when dealing with the latest technology where reliability can still be a major issue.


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Headlands

 

I carried out an exercise a few years ago looking at the impact of headland effect on yield, ranking each field by the proportion of headland.

 

On 36-metre tramlines, with the shape of some of the fields, the results were quite surprising, ranging from 25-85%.

 

Probably most concerning however, was the fact the average was 50%, therefore half of every hectare farmed was within the outside 36m of a field.

 

Thankfully the field at 85% has been put down to stewardship, but on its own this has done little to ease things.

 

This struck me as being important for considering where to focus attention to increase yields, as this doesn’t even take into account infield obstacles, such as trees, manholes or telegraph poles, of which we have many.

Savings

With an average field size of just eight hectares, and some irregular shaped fields, this should perhaps come as no real surprise, but it does show attention is required in this area, both to help save inputs, as well as to improve yields.

 

We have already gone down the route of automatic section control on the sprayers, as well as the spreader and drill now, but at 2m sections, some of the field corners can still be quite tricky.

 

The benefit of taking these areas out of production has been reduced now with current stewardship guidelines demanding more ‘management’ is required, therefore we still end up needing to make applications to these areas, but just for a different end purpose.

 

As a result, it is becoming evident greater accuracy will be needed, most likely down to individual nozzle control to manage areas of fields separately through RTK boundaries, to ensure the application to one area does not stray into the other, which is easier said than done.

 

Variable rate

 

 

I am also interested in the latest technology being used to vary rates of application across a boom when going around corners.

 

Despite routinely backing into all corners, it is still too common a sight to see patches of grassweeds on the outside of bends where pre-ems have been underdosed by the boom travelling too quickly.

 

Or heavily stressed plants on the inside of turns, which have received a double dose of plant growth regulators in spring.

If there is technology out there which can reduce the impact of this then it would seem sensible to look into it, even if it does not help make any savings, it should help to ensure a more accurate application.

 

 

Although this all looks good in theory, I am yet to gain a full understanding of how much this is going to cost, so I will have to reserve judgement until then.

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