Wet weather in Angus has created an unwelcome break in James’ harvest campaign. However, it provided a great opportunity to catch up with what he has been doing this season. Below are several observations from August 2022.
‘Out front’ cultivations
Although James would like to see no cultivations on the farm, he has recognised that sometimes a little cultivation can be the difference between a successful crop and a poor crop. James moved away from inversion tillage six years ago, however, he occasionally uses discs to create some shallow soil movement ahead of the next crop. Working the top 3 to 5cm of soil has allowed James to improve seed to soil contact, manage trash and reduce slug pressure when needed. James only uses this approach when he thinks there will be an issue that one of his drills cannot cope with. He has found that being flexible and adapting to environmental conditions is what is required to make his low disturbance system work.
Assessing header losses
Having purchased a stripper header to improve combine output and make trash management easier, James was concerned that this harvesting method might increase his combine losses. James took the opportunity to count the seeds left behind the combine, finding that his very worst header losses were 200 seeds per square meter. Based on the bushel weight of that crop, this equates to 125kg/ha, or 1% header losses. Even though this was one of the highest losses that James found, he thinks that this is acceptable, and in some instances the cereals will complement the sown cover crop when providing over winter cover.
Cover crop establishment
James showed us some cover crop he recently established into a field which grew spring barley this season and was then harvested with the stripper header. He found that by keeping the discs out of the ground on his Horsh drill, it kept more of the straw standing, therefore providing better soil contact for the cover crop seed. James is using a mix containing buckwheat, vetch, crimson clover and radish.