Finding the winning cultivation strategy in Pembrokeshire

Friday, 9 November 2018

AHDB’s Pembrokeshire Monitor Farm met on Wednesday 7 November to look in depth at different cultivation strategies and the impact they have on the soils. We spoke to three of the group to find out more…

The Monitor Farm host: Tom Rees, Dudwell Farm

“We’ve had a fantastic day looking at cultivations, the effect of different cultivations and the importance of the cover crop try-out we’ve recently undertaken. That’s worked really well for us and we’ve had some fantastic results.

“We also had a really informative day with Philip Wright. He looked at lots of different scenarios and cultivations and the effect that had on soil structure. It’s been really interesting to see the difference between maxi-till ground versus carrier ground versus direct drill and the traditional plough; and the influences those cultivations have on the soil structure.

“I was amazed at how much of a difference it was, particularly when you get down a couple of inches. It really brought home for me today the importance of using a spade and getting out there and making sure that when you choose your cultivation strategy it’s the right one for the conditions.”

The farm visitor: Jason Llewellin, Trewarren Farm

“The two main points I’ve taken from the Pembrokeshire Monitor Farm meeting today are the importance of roots, in our instance getting cover crops in early to get the crop established; and also the possibility of moving less soil with our tined machine prior to drilling.”

The independent advisor: Philip Wright

“It was interesting looking at the different effects those cover crops have had on the fields, particularly the soil moisture, but very importantly how they’ve helped the soil to structure itself after some headland damage. It’s good to give yourself a wider window of opportunity of soil moisture, particularly in here in Pembrokeshire because the rainfall levels can be quite high so if you can draw the moisture out with a growing crop for as long as possible, the soil moisture levels are more appropriate for tillage. That was the key point we saw.

“The secondary point we saw was the high vulnerability of these soils to very intrusive tillage: ploughing, deep working and preparation for potatoes, which are all things which have to be done. Clearly [it’s good] if you can minimise the amount of intrusive tillage, particularly vary the depths you’re working so you don’t create a plane of weakness at one level. I think in a year like we’ve just had, default to shallower rather than deeper [cultivation] wouldn’t be a bad idea.

“So those two points came out clearly in a number of fields: vulnerability of soils without roots growing in it that had been extensively cultivated after the amount of rain we’ve just had – there’s a chalk and cheese difference between that and something that’s got roots growing in it.”

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