New Growers Guide Highlights Rotational Ploughing Essentials - Agrii - Connecting Agri-science with farming

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October 24, 2013

New Growers Guide Highlights Rotational Ploughing Essentials

Rotational ploughing can be a key weapon in reducing black-grass infestations and increasing crop performance, according to a handy new weatherproof growers pocket guide to the technique published this winter.  But, it insists, bad ploughing is a waste of both time and money.

Produced by Agrii and Lemken, the 30 page Guide to Good Ploughing summarises the main conclusions of the first three years of their large scale rotation-wide establishment trials on a Cambridgeshire farm with serious black-grass problems. Alongside this, it provides practical and well-illustrated guidance on plough setting and operation as well as top tips on making the most of the plough in effective cultural control.

“Our work at the country’s most comprehensive long-term black-grass management trials site clearly show a plough anywhere in the rotation reduces black-grass numbers,” reports joint guide author, Agrii head of agronomy, Colin Lloyd. “By burying all surface residues with the plough, we’ve achieved a reduction of over 98% in highly resistant black-grass in the season.

“Together with variety choice, drilling date and seed rate, our Stow Longa trials show that ploughing can be an extremely valuable tool in the black-grass control armoury. However, we find ploughing for a second year in a row brings black-grass seeds back to the surface too soon for effective control. And it is only effective if the seeds are consistently buried out of the germination zone in the first place.

“If you can see straw on the surface when you’ve finished ploughing you will see weeds in your crop,” he points out. “So if you can’t plough consistently well, it’s probably best not to plough at all, keeping the weeds seeds close to the surface and tackling them with the most effective stale seedbeds and best available herbicide chemistry. The worst thing you can do is mix the seed throughout the soil profile. This will ensure persistent problems.”

Fellow author, Mark Ormond of Lemken insists that correct plough setting and operation is essential if all weed seeds are to be buried to a depth from which they will not emerge. In particular, he highlights the importance of levelling the equipment, setting the skimmers, achieving full slice inversion and furrow pressing.

“The plough must be set level both from front to rear and left to right,” he stresses. “Equally, the skimmers need to be set to scrape-off all the surface trash and place it in the bottom of the open furrow without including so much material that the furrow slice can’t be fully inverted.

“Full inversion won’t be achieved if soil sticks to the mouldboard either. This makes slatted mouldboards valuable for soils prone to sticking.

“Having the wing slightly shorter than the furrow width is also vital to provide a hinge around which the furrow slice is folded,” adds Mark Ormond. “Otherwise, the plough body may push the soil sideways rather than inverting it. And the right type of press for the soil type can make a big difference in achieving effective furrow closure.

“It’s important to bear in mind that large ploughs don’t pull straight, too. So, on-land ploughing can be a useful way of achieving a better – and more managable – tractor/machine balance.”The innovative large-scale rotation-wide Agrii/Lemken cultivation trials are continuing at Stow Longa alongside a range of integrated cultural and chemical control investigations, including intensive variety screening for grass weed competitiveness.

In order to receive an electronic ‘flip-book’ version of the guide, please complete the ‘make an enquiry’ form.