Arable News

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Cultivations costed

Clear differences in fuel consumption have been demonstrated between various establishment systems

Clear differences in fuel consumption have been demonstrated between various establishment systems at a trials site in South Yorkshire run by machinery manufacturer Amazone. Dominic Kilburn reports.
The trials, based at Woolthwaite Farm, Tickhill near Doncaster, include cultivation techniques ranging from ploughing to minimum tillage and three different types of drill, have shown that the cost between the cheapest cultivations and the most expensive in terms of fuel use was 30.90/ha. In addition, the trials have shown a clear relationship between depth of cultivation and fuel consumption, says Amazone.Table 1: Amazone’s trial plot layout for soil tillage, seedbed preparation and sowing at the Tickhill
site near Doncaster.

Established with winter barley variety Cassia following winter wheat last autumn, the trials site is divided into four plots (A, B, C and D) – see chart below – all initially receiving a pass with an Amazone Catros compact disc harrow at a depth of 8cm.
Plot A was then ploughed to 25cm while the other plots were left to green up as a means of controlling any volunteers and weeds. Prior to drilling, plot A was cultivated again with the Catros cultivator, to prepare a better quality seedbed, while plots B and C were worked with Amazone’s Cenius multi-row mulch cultivator to depths of 22 and 15cm respectively. Plot D was worked the shallowest with the Catros at an 8cm depth.Drilling was carried out with three different machines across each of the plots; Amazone’s KG/AD-P Super rotary cultivator/seed drill combination, and the company’s reduced tillage trailed Cirrus Super and Cayena tine seeders.“The various working depths of the cultivations have shown us a clear differential in fuel consumption between the various systems,” said Amazone’s brand manager, Simon Brown (left). “There seems to be a linear relationship between depth and fuel consumption as, by increasing the working depth by a third, the knock-on effect is that fuel consumption is also increased by 30 per cent,” he explained.Calculated at 0.60p/litre, not surprisingly, the most expensive diesel costs at 37.80/ha were associated with plot A where a pass with a plough was combined with the rotary cultivator drill, while the cheapest form of establishment at 6.90/ha was achieved with the Catros cultivator and drilling with the Cayena.Drilling using the rotary cultivator/drill combination added significantly higher fuel consumption across each of the four plots compared with the other drill systems and Simon points out that, even when paired with a reduced tillage cultivator, costs can rise above those associated with conventional tillage operations when a rotary cultivator/drill is used. For example, the plough in combination with the Catros cultivator and Cayena drill accumulated diesel costs of 27.90/ha compared with the 34.80/ha cost of the reduced tillage Cenius cultivator in combination with the rotary cultivator/drill.While Amazone trials at Tickhill, in co-operation with farming company P & C Dook, have been in place since 2009, the company says that looking back at yield results, it is already apparent that reduced (conservation) tillage techniques can match the yields generated by a traditional plough-based system.Simon points out that although reduced tillage can offer the biggest scope for saving costs, a certain minimum intensity of cultivation is necessary at the clay over limestone site to achieve reasonable yields, with the shallowest (8cm) worked plot yielding significantly lower (in winter wheat) in 2009/10, possibly due to disease pressure, compared with the other plots.”However, after four years of continual shallow cultivation, this pressure from take-all seems to have been relieved and, following beans in 2011, these shallower cultivated plots bucked the trend of previous years and out-yielded the other plots at harvest 2012.”This could have also been caused by the preservation of moisture in the seedbed when drilling and the residual nitrogen left by the beans getting these plots off to a stronger start,” concludes Simon.Table 2: The cost between the cheapest cultivations and the most expensive in terms of fuel use was 30.90/ha.


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