A recent Maize Technical Day held by Sly Agri Ltd at their base in Lincolnshire explained the whole process of adopting a strip tillage system on farm. Experts were on hand to explain each step from the upfront agronomy through to the mechanics of the machinery and at the end the accurate placement, establishment and germination of the seed.
To wind back to the first step in considering a strip tillage system we heard from Mike Harrington of Edaphos who explained the agronomic benefits of a strip tillage system such as increased soil warm up temperature, better rainfall catchment, providing a solid foundation for heavy harvesting equipment such as forager harvesters or sugarbeet harvesters. Another interesting point raised and discussed by Mike was the adjustment to the traditional nutrient and chemical plan for the crop. Mike explained the process of managing nutrients in the soil to ensure availability to the plant. In particular the availability of Phosphorous in emergence stages, which is particularly important when you consider at 5 weeks a maize plant final yield, is set and at 9 weeks if a second cob is possible.
Looking at the cultivation side of the system George Sly talked through the Stripcat II and the changes made to adapt to the UK soils and market. For example the 25 cm wide winged point which performs better in clay soils and the potential availability of a spring tine set up allowing strips to be ‘refreshed’ in the spring. Also by shifting the units the stripcat II can be used as an inter row hoe for crops losing chemicals such as OSR or like in Tasmania for growing Broccoli entirely on a strip tillage system.
Once the rows are cultivated into the stubble, cover crops or a seedbed and the relevant fertiliser placed they can be planted. Sly Agri offer row units from Harvest International and technology from Precision Planting to monitor seed placement and conditions influencing germination. One particular highlight is the SmartFirmerTM, which measures Organic Matter variability, soil moisture, temperature. This system can be both configured to monitor data and adjust the seeding depth based on factors such as moisture or force on the gauge wheels. This measured force can be used to warn the operator if they are driving too fast and the row unit starts to bounce. Ben Blateyron from Precision Planting explained and showed us how soil moisture and depth affect germination, this being one critical point to consider as we lose seed treatments in the or alternatively the idea of leaving inter row trash / cover crops to try and upset crows hoping to land on the bare soil.
An interesting day presented by a company focussing on all steps of the growing process for maximising fertiliser and nutrient use by the plants, in short using the fertiliser you pay for more efficiently with many measurable benefits.