Although Douglas isn’t trialling as many new techniques as other FFBC group members, Douglas is perfecting his system which he has now been using for 8 years. Every year presents a new challenge but Douglas’s attention to detail is clearly visible in the crops at Moss-side of Esslie. This is the latest update from Moss-side of Esslie as of 2nd June 2020.
Having used the Claydon strip-till drill for 8 seasons on his heavy soils, Douglas has found that seed depth is paramount. Too shallow, and there is a lack of seed to soil contact, and too deep the newly sprouted seedling will not emerge. Seed depth presents a particular challenge following a wet autumn as the fields are not as level as Douglas would like. Although there are not many present, the odd combine mark has left depressions in the soil. These depressions have caused the seed in these areas to be slightly shallower and, therefore, the emergence of spring crops has not been as successful.
Douglas usually rotates crops as standard practice, however, due to imbalances in his cropped area, he has decided to grow oats following oats to return the field into a proper rotation. This has been an interesting experiment as Douglas chooses to chop all of his oat and wheat straw, only removing his barley straw. By chopping his oat straw there is a significant quantity of surface residue, which, unlike many drills, the Claydon has managed to sow into. Douglas says the front tines on the drill move the straw out of the way, preventing hair pinning.
Figure 4 – Two varieties of oats at Moss-side of Esslie in the field which has a high quantity of residues from last year
Cover crop plans
Following the wet winter in 2019/2020 Douglas has decided to grow cover crops following harvest. As Douglas is not growing any winter barley this season, he thinks the most successful method of establishment will be into standing crops 2 weeks prior to harvest. He hasn’t decided on mixes of species yet but says that cost will play a key driver in his decisions.
Figure 5 – The white hyphae of fungi present on the roots of oats at Moss-side of Esslie
The abundance of roots in Douglas crops is testament to his strip-till system. Extra roots ensure maximum nutrient and water extraction from the soil, helping to increase the crop’s resilience. Douglas’ soil also has an abundance of fungi present, mycorrhizal fungi forms associations with plants helping to increase nutrient uptake.