2018 cultivated vs direct drilled yields

Discussion in 'Direct Drilling Crops & Agronomy' started by Feldspar, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. For just about the first time ever I think this year we have got a decent set of yield records and maps for nearly all our fields. Old Massey yield meter was never very trustworthy and yield maps were very hit and miss. The NH yield meter works for all crop types and hectolitre weights and so is a much more reliable tool. Season before this one we only calibrated part way through the season which messed things up a bit, and then I couldn't get the information off the screen. Have a back-up so still hopeful that I can get that information into a useable format shortly because it will be possible to correct the figures obtained at the start of the season.

    This season, however, we calibrated right at the start which meant the numbers coming in from the beginning made some sense. I would guess that there is a 5% error in the figures, but I believe that most of that error is likely to be systematic rather than random and so does not really affect relative yield comparisons.

    The only data I don't have properly is the OSR data because we had a loan combine in for that crop. I still have some information, but need really for the last tonnage to be sold to tidy that up.

    In the meantime, I thought I would set out a few comparisons in different crops between ploughed fields and direct drilled fields. I use the phrase direct drilled a bit loosely because a lot of fields we went through once or twice with a Claydon Terrastar. There was only genuine zero-tilling in some wheat, some spring barley and some winter beans.

    Won't have time to go through all the paired comparisons just now, but will feed them in when I get time. We have cultivated nearly every acre this year because I was unhappy with our direct drilling experiences recently. Also, we have a peak in our drilled acreage this autumn which will push our drilling capacity somewhat. Therefore, I wanted to have the widest weather windows possible for drilling and be able to drill at the fast speed possible. Seems slightly perverse given that has taken a lot of extra cultivation time, but we had the weather to do it this year.
    Timbo1080 likes this.
  2. The first and largest scale comparison was in our winter wheat. We had a new farm to us which we cultivated entirely with a Sumo Trio (which had to be bought in a hurry when we realised we couldn't direct drill it) and then most was power harrowed before drilling. This was about 80ha drilled with Skyfall in one hit after winter beans. We then moved onto another farm about 8 miles away on a similar soil type where we drilled about 120ha of Siskin in the subsequent days. The second farm had two separate blocks; one block was no-tilled after winter beans, and the second block had been Siskin the previous year and had had one Terrastar pass. I am going to mainly compare the two areas of 1st wheat after beans to be fair.

    I think the difference in drilling dates is not that significant to be a reason for a difference in yield because there were no rain events which separated the two blocks. Both the Siskin and Skyfall had similar fungicide programmes with T0 through to T3 with an approximate spend of £90/ha. I would say the Skyfall was slightly better timed in front of rain events, but we upped the T1 Aviator rate on the Siskin because it was after the rain. Overall, I would say the Skyfall remained cleaner through the season than the Siskin (although obviously when the dry weather came that soaked up any disease remaining). The Siskin had 210 kg/ha of N whereas, because we thought the Skyfall had higher potential, we put 240 kg/ha of N on. All had three splits of N, but the Skyfall got the second split of 80 kg/ha of liquid in front an earlier rain which the Siskin didn't get. Parts of each had some Broadway Star and all remaining areas had an SU and CMPP for BLWs. Later on in the season the Siskin I think got one or two 2-3mm rain events that the Skyfall might have missed. After drilling the no-till wheat had a fair slug pressure and I did have to pellet these fields twice, whereas the Skyfall area didn't need any pellets (one of my big gripes about direct drilling). Skyfall was Deter treated whereas Siskin was untreated completely but then had a pyrethroid later on as aphid pressure was meant to be higher. Did leave part of a field here untreated and all I can say is that the half we didn't treat yielded no worse than the half we did treat (although without having a good long run of yield maps, it's hard to say what the differences are in soil fertility between the halves).

    All the above for me rather muddies the water and doesn't really make this a terrible good comparison. However, I'm going to put down what I've got and others can draw their own conclusion.

    Yield results for the Skyfall were an average of 8.7 t/ha with a range of 8.3-9.5t/ha. The 80ha of no-till Siskin averaged 8.26 t/ha with the range being 7.8-8.6t/ha. Had some sample results back but the sampler messed the notes up so having to have them resampled.

    I'm not sure what conclusions to draw if any from this. There are a lot of reasons that you could pick out which would cause yield effects which are not to do with the establishment which for me makes real comparisons rather difficult in this case. I suppose it's fair to say that the no-till stuff was not a disaster. Also, if the yield difference was entirely due to establishment technique, it would not be sufficient to pay for the Trio pass and power harrow pass. Saying those sorts of things though are dangerous because there are so many other factors.

    Onto the next "comparison"...
  3. My conclusion from that is that if you can get no till crops established satisfactorily then their yield potential is the same as any other but with the key advantage of reduced costs. The key thing is how to establish them satisfactorily - factors such as machinery choice/ soil draining / timing / machinery maintenance/ management ability all come into play.

    There is greater potential for lowering costs more with no till than cultivation but as we all know you can get the odd disaster with no till - sometimes that is bad luck, sometimes its learning curve/ missing experience in a new system.
    Timbo1080 and silverfox like this.
  4. Will give some spring crop examples, but I think spring crops are for us where direct drilling has made things consistently more stressful for certain rather than sometimes being easier and sometimes being more difficult. Autumn drilling is a more mixed picture.
  5. I know why you are going to say what you say. For what its worth though spring crops have been diabolical here for me too this year. I had some spring barley which scraped 1.5t/acre. I know what I did wrong - I drilled too deep, it dried out and lots of plants didn't establish.

    YELROM Member

    North Yorkshire
    How deep?
  7. Big-Al

    Big-Al Member

    Rugby Warwickshire
    Skyfall is a better direct driller than Siskin, which yielded about 0.8t less in direct drilling situations, conclusion wont be drilling Siskin again.
    Spring barley (Planet) depth 35/38mm we have yielded more than our neighbours that thrashed the arse out of their ground to get a seedbed which was already dry as a parrots cage, going in to the driest year this century, conclusion dont give up on DD,(Yet) our blackgrass pressure is at its lowest for last 10 years, id even say we have 80% less blackgrass as a result of changing from our mintill Vaderstad based system.
    juke, Robert and newjames like this.
  8. snarling bee

    snarling bee Member

    I'm not a particular fan of DDing, especially on my heavy land. I do think however that there will be more differences this year between the 2 systems, with long term DDing not yielding well this year. In an average year, or where there is a dryer winter and a wetter summer, there will be little difference.

    The biggest problem in a dry spring is moving the ground pre drilling. Cultivate to almost a seedbed in the autumn, then the only pass in the spring is the drill. If you have bad BG then keep it shallow, or plough.

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