How proper cover crops are the key to a flat mini-till system
I farm both my own and leased land and do some contract work.
co-farm with a neighbour, sharing the work and some machinery – this helps a lot during busy times of the year.
Labor and labor costs were the primary reason I switched from a conventional plow and one-pass setup system to a flat min-till system 10 years ago.
My soils are quite heavy with a high clay content and I felt that they had become quite hard and it took more diesel, metal and time to create a suitable seedbed.
Initially I cultivated to 4-5 inches with a tine harrow and as my soils adjusted I was able to cultivate at a shallower depth.
I now use a heavy 4m trailed disc and follow up with a Väderstad Rapid seed drill and when planting wheat after beans I fertilize directly.
It works well for me, but I’ve found that proper pre-spring cover crops are an essential part of the system to maintain and improve soil structure.
I now plant rather earlier in the fall to get a good establishment, but this can present challenges in terms of disease and virus control.
It’s a balancing act and nothing is set in stone – the Tine Harrow, Plow, and One-Pass are still in the yard for certain situations, but I find I use them less often.
Crop rotation has also changed in recent years: I’ve moved away from permanent winter grain.
Controlling septoria in winter wheat became more and more costly and brome became a problem in continuous winter barley as I moved towards min-till.
Switching to spring barley has allowed me to manage the brome situation and adding non-broken crops to my crop rotation over the past two years has further helped with weed control.
There were also other benefits from nitrogen savings, breaks in disease cycles, and higher grain yields.
I now decide on a target crop rotation of spring beans, winter wheat, winter barley, winter canola, winter wheat, winter barley or spring barley followed by a cover crop and then back to spring beans.
I recently managed to get to the ground (with Duals on) to spray the rape with Astrokerb at a rate of 1.5L/ha.
In the yard I am modifying some sheds to give me more temporary storage capacity which will help with the harvest time workload.
I’m also looking at a new weigh cell fertilizer spreader that has improved headland management.
After we managed to spray most of the winter barley before emergence last autumn, the pressure here is gone.
There is one field of winter barley that has not yet received weed control, which will make for an interesting comparison at the Teagasc Crop Walk that I am hosting on February 8th at 11am
Vincent Macken farms in Kentstown, Navan, Co. Meath
Local Advisor: Shane Kennedy, Teagasc, Drogheda
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/how-suitable-cover-crops-are-the-key-to-a-shallow-min-till-system-42319755.html How proper cover crops are the key to a flat mini-till system