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Steve Heard: Harvest countdown begins and welding continues on drilling rig

Insights

The hectic build up to silly season is upon us, but I have prioritised a few afternoons away to glean some of the latest trail results as I try to further educate myself in the black-grass challenge.

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So my five priorities based on my learnings so far are: very shallow surface cultivations to promote better stale seedbeds; further delayed drilling; much higher water volumes for residual herbicides; establish winter cover crops prior to spring drilling; and a more varied rotation. Some are easier said than done.

 

Our new shallow cultivator is already built and raring to go, but later target drilling dates have forced a bigger build project. The Vaderstad drill, which has served us well for many years, is an excellent tool but not best suited to working late season in wet soils. The search for a replacement found nothing affordable nor that really ticked all my requirement boxes.

 

So, having drawn up my own new design and filled the yard with parts from an imported donor drill, work began some months ago. If I were to rate our workshop projects by the amount of welding required, this one is something over 75kg of mig wire so far and counting.

 

When complete, this new drilling rig should allow us to seed into our new much reduced cultivations and if necessary during less favourable conditions. At least that is the plan. The twin tanks and direct drill type disc coulter are designed to place both seed and fertiliser with a minimum of soil movement, thus helping reduce any further grass-weed burden from our stale seedbeds. If my twitter updates suddenly go very quiet later in the year you will know why.

 

Harvest countdown has begun, with nearly half our OSR already desiccated. Perhaps a mid-July start should afford us a more relaxed approach? Here’s hoping.

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