Tillage Efficiency and Trash Management
Difficulties with the weather
In typical British fashion, 2023 has so far offered us a rollercoaster of weather patterns. An unseasonably dry February, prompted many a debate about whether it was too early to head into the fields to plant the spring crops. Fluctuating temperatures hindered a few, but these same people might have lived to rue their decision when the heavens opened in March and barely drew breath until late May. But the sopping ground went almost as quickly as it came leaving us with very hard ground through June. What happens for the rest of the year could be anyone’s guess.
Narrow Weather Windows
These smaller windows between too wet and too dry mean that growers need to be as efficient as possible with getting on the ground. A low disturbance farming systems offers growers the advantage of fewer and more rapid passes meaning that more work can be done in a narrower time frame, approximately 30 minutes per hectare, where using a straw harrow such as the Weaving Stubble Rake, whilst a conventional farming system requires as much as 250 minutes per hectare for ploughing or heavy discing.
With drier summers more likely through our changing climate, it will be prudent to wait for a little rain before autumn cultivation, but be cautious not to fall victim of wetter autumns.
Whilst a balanced rotation is ultimately recommended, we often see growers prioritise high yielding cereals due to their short-term profitability. But where long runs of high yielding cereals are planted, straw incorporation becomes more difficult to manage and chaff can be a greater challenge than straw. The chaff will fall to the base of the stubble and can hold large amounts of moisture which will impede the soil from drying out. This can serve to make autumn drilling even more challenging. These problems can be minimised where a straw harrow is used at a minimum 45° angle to the direction of the combine, immediately after harvest when straw and chaff are still dry and stubble has yet to become brittle.
The Weaving Stubble Rake was developed to serve this purpose. It is robustly designed, fitted with 16mm diameter heavy duty tines across 5 rows allowing plenty of clearance for high straw and trash through-flow. The Weaving Stubble Rake is equipped with 3 hydraulic cylinders, which are connected to the tines to determine the stroke length and ultimately the tine pitch. These cylinders are part of a closed-circuit including accumulators to absorb shock loads, which have a hydraulic cushioning effect to ensure consistent even spread of crop residues when riding over uneven terrain. This helps to avoid clusters of crop residue which if left can cause nitrogen lock up and inhibit germination.
Working on the basis that 1cm of cultivation depth is required for every tonne/hectare of crop residue, where trash is denser, more vigorous shallow tillage may be needed and this is where the new Weaving Energiser maybe the preferred choice. This machine is equipped with 4 rows of oscillating 40mm coiled tines and a cast iron “V” ring roller, fitted with detachable clod breakers, all designed to both loosen the soil and incorporate trash to leave a firm and level stale seedbed ahead of drilling.