Chris Eglington’s farm in Norfolk was under the spotlight at the Syngenta oilseed rape growers group’s latest meeting.
Oilseed rape plays an important role on the rotation on Mr Eglington’s farm. For two decades he has followed a four-course rotation, with two wheat crops, followed by winter barley as a timely entry for the OSR.
Giving oilseed rape plants the room to grow and make best use of the improved soil conditions and agronomy inputs is integral to high yields, he told iOSR growers.
And at the heart of that is his own designed and farm-built precision drilling system, incorporating a sugar beet drill which delivers accurate seed placement.
Working at 57cm row spacing, that means a seed every 8.75cm for 20 seeds per sq.m, or seven cm for 25 seeds/sq.m. Mr Eglington calculates to achieve establishment rates of between 80-95%+ plants from seeds – adjusting rates according to seasonal conditions and looking to take 20 ppm2 into winter.
After several trial incarnations, the seed placement units are now at the back, behind a tillage train incorporating leg lifters, cultivation and disc press packers. The CTF system means it has a relatively low power requirement as it looks to move as little soil as possible to create a good tilth and even seedbed for precision placement and plant establishment.
“The front subsoil tines have always pulled up sufficient soil moisture for the seed placement into good conditions,” reported Mr Eglington. “But the key has been to ensure sufficient consolidation to hold the available moisture for the seedling.”
Lincolnshire iOSR grower Andrew Ward added: “The size, and most impressively the strength, of every plant in the row shows that precision placement is so important for oilseed rape establishment and its yield potential. “The combination of Chris’ drilling, with the soil conditions created by the CTF system, has produced an incredibly consistent and extremely impressive even crop across the whole field.”
Srtict adherence to a Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) system is already paying dividends in improved soil structure for faster and stronger crop establishment for Mr Eglington.
He pointed out drone imagery could pick up every transgression from the tracks. It not only identified the culprits, but ably demonstrated how one wayward pass with a tractor was having an impact on the soil structure, which manifested in the next crop’s development and performance.
His selected system at North Hill, Letton, seven miles south of Dereham, works on an eightmetre track. A sub-soiler is used to pull out wheelings each summer, with rotational ploughing one year in four.
“I am convinced that, even after just four seasons, CTF is having a really beneficial effect on the soil structure, and it will continue to get better,” he said. “Oilseed rape has been one of the biggest winners, with the improved soils enabling far more effective precision sowing and giving faster establishment with deeper rooting.”