Quantifying cover crops

Spud

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
YO62
Having had a bit of a review and made a few changes (as we seem to do, almost continually tweaking) I wondered how everyone else has approached the slightly thorny issue of quantifying cover crop establishment.

A bit of history:

2011 - 25ac of mustard, sown by 4m Amazone combi after a shakerator pass. All implements old and depreciated. Two passes, time consuming, pita moving 4m between fields on narrow roads. Still got it, but all it really does is sow companion oats while fettling beet seedbeds. Its not been the same since an over enthusiastic operator lowered it while reversing and remodelled the coulters......

2015 - 150ac of oats/mustard/radish sown by 3m Kockerling drill procured from this very forum. One pass establishment. Power hungry, slow, but big hopper meant little time lost running about. Great tool for drilling beans.

2018 - 250-300ac of various mixtures, sown by 3m Moore drill, bought new with assistance from a CPSG grant. Quicker and arguably better establishment than the Kockerling, but similar time taken due to more acres sown, time that eats into wheat drilling time in a late season (like 19&20) It's also wearing out far too quickly. It's 0.5t tank also means a lot of running about for seed.It will stay, because it's also used for sowing oats into cover crops and wheat into bean residue, among other things, which it does well.

2021 - 300ac+ of mostly two mixes. Sown by freshly acquired 8m Tive tine drill, with 3.5t tank should lessen running about and speed up sowing. I expect a bit of a compromise in establishment compared to the Moore, so we'll see. Said prairie drill is 24yo, but has been on a 300ac farm all its life, and not used for a few years. It's in top condition.

We also now have a bargain basement 6m trailed press with tyres between each ring and spring tines on the front, primarily for chitting winter barley stubbles and redistributing what can be trashy stubbles that may block the drill on fluffy land. Cart drivers job on damp mornings.

Fundamentally, I'm happy that the covers deliver more than they cost, but the time pressure in a late cereal harvest and interference into cereal (cash crops, essentially) sowing has become an issue.

How do the bigger operators manage this?

Do people justify big direct drills by averaging the costs over all acres sown, or all acres harvested?

Longer term I'm thinking of upgrading the Moore, Kockerling and Amazone for a direct drill that will sow everything from mustard to beans, into any surface. Wether we use such a tool for covers as well isn't decided yet!

Just a bit of brainstorming

Cheers, spud.
 

Spud

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
YO62
It almost sounds like you want to justify buying some more machinery.

I guess you need to get an evaluate a carrier+bio drill and a pneumatic spreader too.

Far from it tbh, we have too many bits of kit at the moment.

Just looking at time efficiencies and cost effectiveness.

Issue with Bio drill (etal) is the small hopper - fine for sub10kg seedrates, but no good for 100kg+ mixes, particularly if big seeds are present.
 

Spud

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
YO62
Last lot we did spud ,was to spin oats on ,then mixed in with cultivator with seeder on back putting rape mustard raddish on ,

I'd prefer to leave the stubble standing as far as I can ideally. Always a compromise, especially in a year like this when there was a lot of spring barley heads on the ground
 

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