Improving yields and crop consistency

Part article taken from the Farmers Guardian, written by Jane Carley

In the run up to this year’s drilling season, there is a lot of research going on into oilseed rape seeding.  Agrovista’s Growcrop Gold trials were launched in 2009 to investigate and develop aspects of oilseed rape establishment and agronomy designed to help growers improve the consistency of yields and margins.  They also aim to identify ways to cope with any new product or nutrition restrictions growers may have to contend with.

Part of the trials involved emulating precision sowing of oilseed rape by manipulating row width and plant population.

They also looked at aspects such as seed rate manipulation in conjunction with band establishment, investigating the opportunities of allowing band application of nutrients and herbicides and inter-row application of non-selective herbicides.

The Growcrop Gold trial sites are located across the country, giving the opportunity to study different soil and climatic conditions.  Each site has an agronomy group attached to it which makes visits in November, February and June to look at progress and development.

Precision or broadcast

Niall Atkinson, who co-ordinates the trials sites on behalf of Agrovista, says: “initially, we were using older technology such as vegetable drills, but even then we saw some improvements over broadcast seeding.

“More advanced equipment, such as Amazone’s EDX maize drill and the Great Plains YP seeder have shown significant benefits.

“The use of soil loosening legs and low seed rates gives good results.  Modern drills can also work at higher forward speeds, overcoming work rate disadvantages of drilling compared with using broadcast systems.”

He says early work showed dramatic yield improvements, from 0.5-1 tonne/hectare (02.-0.4t/acre) over broadcast systems.

However, good results were also seed from band sowing at lower seed rates, wider spacings and in-row spacing of 12 plants per metre with a Stocks seeder.

Mr Atkinson says:   “Precision seeding or simple attention to detail delivers the results.”

Direct seeding with precision drills has also been considered, he says.  “Machines such as the Amazone EDX can go into stubbles, provided the soil structure is suitable, otherwise the root system may be compromised.

“Good consolidation post-drilling using a Cambridge roll is essential for both the Amazone and Great Plains systems.

“We are now looking at strip tillage to see which cultivation techniques give the most favourable conditions.”

Mr Atkinson says the success of the technique may hinge on farmers and contractors being able to use drills for a number of crops, for example in areas where maize is used for energy generation.

“Seed costs are also significant, and the improved establishment and reduced competition within the rows allows the seed to be used to its full potential,” he says.

“For the future, seed costs will only increase as more nutrients, fungicides and insecticides are loaded on to the seed in complex coatings.  Precision seeding could be a useful contractor operation.”

This autumn will see the latest generation of seeder enter the trials, including Vaderstad’s high speed Tempo precision drill…

Precision seeding OSR


  • Even establishment due to consistent planting depth
  • Opportunity for increased accuracy of fertiliser application, leading to better establishment
  • Improved root development, which helps minimise lodging or risk of damage in severe weather
  • Improve branching
  • Yield increases up to 1t/ha (0.4t/acre) compared to broadcast systems shown in trials

 Potential drawbacks

  • Lower work rates, although modern precision drills can work at higher forward speeds
  • May need more than one pass with some systems and conditions
  • Extra cost of specialist equipment


07 June 2014

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