Stockbridge Technology Center – Trial Site

 

The Event

On the 22nd June 2016 farmers were invited to see the Spring barley trial plots at Stockbridge Technology Center near York as part of the “Walk the Supply Chain “event. There was a significant interest in the trial which included a new variety of barley that Muntons were keen to see what potential yield benefits, inter-row cropping could deliver.

Framer men observing crop in field Sustainable Futures

Background

Inter-row cropping has for a number of years been seen as an exciting way of growing 2 crops in one field, with each crop benefiting from its companions close location. Improved biodiversity and higher yields, for following crops in the rotation, are driving the concept.

Historically this planting practice has been difficult to achieve, but it is now made possible using GPS and a unique piece of Strip-Till machinery, invented specifically to carry out the multi- operational activity, which allows farmers to manage 2 crops in one field.

The trials were supported by Muntons a maltster and Heineken, one of the world biggest brewers, who are very interested in producing more sustainable barley.

 

Areas of specialism

The specially designed machinery necessary to make this possible had worked well, however the white clover which was drilled in spring was not as well established as was desired and failed to thrive after the barley was drilled.

In this year’s trial, the clover has been established in autumn with the inter-row crop to be planted in spring.

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Group Learning

Whilst this is the first time the Strip Till equipment has been utilised in this way, it is extremely versatile and affords farmers the chance to consider a wide range of cultivation opportunities.

From multi activity, one pass operations to direct drill, it employs soil-loosening tines that break open the soil to a depth of between 200mm-350mm.

Alongside this, there are pairs of rotovator tines, straddling the leg, creating a strip of tilth 5cm to 15cm deep. Because of their position directly alongside the leg, it is suggested that they can help in trashy conditions, actively pulling crop residue through the machine.

Following the main rotor is an optional secondary tillage roller.

Hydraulically-driven either forwards or in reverse, additionally, toothed pegs help to level and consolidate the loose strips of soil down to a depth of 3cm. The final element is a hydraulically adjustable packer roller.

Those are the basic operations available with this piece of equipment, but there are a number of different options, the principle ones being linked to seed/fertiliser applicators.

The farmer has real flexibility to decide how the outlets are positioned but most opt to have them in the soil flow directly behind the first.

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The other key option is a three-point linkage to allow operators to also mount a precision drill.

Growers who want to explore the strip-till methodology can hire the equipment via the CHAP programme, potentially securing access to decent seedbed conditions, which is not always possible in the UK’s somewhat unpredictable spring weather.

The yields of the different plots and malting barley quality are currently being analysed and full results will be available shortly on the blog page of our website.