An Update from Castleton Farm
Update from Castleton
Having purchased a stripper header, Ross is pleased with the output from his new implement. However, he has found that header losses have increased. Ross has also noticed that he has many more wheel tracks in the field. This is because he has opted for a smaller header so that his combine can process the increased output. Nevertheless, Ross thinks that leaving the straw standing by harvesting his crops in this manner will reduce slug pressure and aid establishment of new crops.
As per previous years, Ross established cover crops into the standing crops of cereals prior to harvest. Ross established a total of 30kg/ha of seed including radish, vetch, and phacelia. The cover crops chitted before the cereals were harvested and are now in a good position to provide a large amount of biomass for grazing sheep on through the winter. Ross has found that by keeping the cover crop seed rate high, he ensures a good ground cover throughout the winter months. Ross does not grow oilseed rape and therefore his cover crop mixture containing brassicas is not posing a clubroot issue within his rotation.
Sowing Into Stripped Straw
Although slug risk can be minimised with the stripper header, it also poses some challenges. Figure 3 highlights a wheeling where the tractor and drill has flattened the stripped oat straw, and subsequently created a thatch of straw on the soil surface. This has provided an additional challenge for the wheat to emerge through. However, it is also thick enough that Ross decided not to apply a pre-emergence herbicide as he felt that there would not be enough soil contact for the chemical. This may cause weed control issues in the springtime, particularly from grass weeds which are hard to control in a reduced tillage system.
Although not his first choice, Ross has chosen to till some areas of stubbles with a set of discs to promote grass weed germination. This is a particular issue for brome grasses which are very difficult to control within a crop of winter barley. Therefore, Ross is encouraging the weed seeds to germinate, before he applies glyphosate and then sows the field. Ross hopes that this will provide suitable control.
Bi-cropping and separation
Last year (2021) Ross harvested a crop of beans and established a crop of winter wheat. Ross found that header losses from cutting the beans germinated in the subsequent crop of wheat and he decided to keep the beans alive in the wheat crop to fix nitrogen. Ross is unsure if the beans contributed much nitrogen to the wheat crop, however, it allowed him to combine both crops at the same time. At the time of writing, Ross was beginning to separate out the wheat and beans by passing them through a set of sieves.