Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Challeges of 2013 Harvest Crops

Head of Farming, Phil Jarvis, takes a look at the Allerton Project's arable challenges in 2012/13 and some of the possible solutions.

Whilst the cold and wet weather has played a major part in this season's challenges, dry spells have also caused soil and crop problems.

We need to develop a more resilient farming system and in particular look at improving soil health. This season we have had problems with crop failure, compacted soils, blackgrass and charlock. An additional concern is the looming late harvest of spring oats, spring beans and spring oilseed rape. This was compounded by a dry spell from mid April to mid May which slowed crop emergence.

We will have to quite pragmatic about spring crops that will yield poorly and hinder our 2014 crops. Will they reach fruition, be whole cropped or act as a cover crop? The growing amount of 'sprayed off' fields shows a number of growers have already decided to cut their losses and make a timely start to next seasons cultivations.

Spring rape has replaced failed winter rape, it has finally come
into flower but Charlock waits worryingly in the wings.
Compaction is never far away in modern arable farming. Unsuitable conditions for autumn field work and incessant rain has left soils slumped, compacted and as such these soils won't provide an ideal medium for root development.                                          
Compaction is a challenge that continually needs addressing
We will need some help from the weather to help the natural cracking process on our heavy soils. Uneven seedbeds and tramlines will need some mechanical operations to try and restructure soils.
Our transition to direct drilling and fewer cultivation passes will be key to our future soil health. The inclusion of more organic matter and straw to encourage earthworms will also help our soils to breathe again. Our next combine will almost certainly have tracks rather than wheels to try and reduce ground pressure.

We can't get away from the fact that the weather has thwarted our blackgrass control strategy this year. Some fields failed to have a stale seed bed, no pre-emergence sprays and no Avadex. We tried to control strong blackgrass plants with Atlantis in weather conditions that were too cold. Our stale seedbed in spring beans, only partially materialised and blackgrass now emerges amongst the pulses.

Blackgrass at Loddington has become a serious challenge !

It is imperative that a combination of straw raking and rolling immediately after combining start the process of germinating blackgrass seeds.

We are considering returning to winter beans and spring oats as a different approach to blackgrass control. Introducing some red clover/grass leys into the rotation has benefits for fertility, weed control and soil structure and will allow us to research a number of economic and environmental areas. 

                                                           Current rotation ww/wosr/ww/spr beans or w.oats

The introduction of red clover will improve our soil structure, soil fertility and help reduce the blackgrass burden

Nitrogen fixing nodules in our spring beans already assist our subsequent wheat crops.

Time to put some finishing touches to our cropping plans and see if we can address some of this season's challenges with sound arable husbandry principles.


No comments:

Post a Comment