Avoid the temptation to plough before soil is dry
Published 25/01/2012 | 06:00
The recent good weather has led to a start in field activity, with some ploughing carried out on selected fields. Land has been drying out with good daytime temperatures and wind helping to improve ground conditions.
Careful consideration should be given before ploughing to ensure that soil conditions are suitable. The temptation to take out the plough when the first signs of spring appear can lead to problems later on if the soil is too wet. Ploughing wet soil will lead to smearing -- which seals the wetness in the sod -- and also compaction of the base of the furrow.
Soil structure damage caused by ploughing in poor conditions, mainly on clay/silty soil types, will impact on the performance of spring crops. Clay loams hold moisture. If they are ploughed when wet, significant smearing will occur. When good drying winds are present, the sod will then dry rock hard on the outside with minimal overall drying of the sod.
Soils that have high levels of magnesium are more prone to smearing and compaction. Those with high clay content benefit greatly from frost weathering and fracture and crack, which helps cultivations.
The benefits of break crops in the cereal rotation were evident last season and, as a result, the area of winter oilseed rape in my area has increased. The good bean yields last year will also encourage growers to plant the crop this season.
Last season the bean harvest was late, due to the extended growing period, and as a result earlier planting dates are planned to try to ensure earlier harvesting. On the heavier soils a target date of mid-February is planned, which will hopefully be harvested in early to mid-September.
It is important to have a good pH level (6.5-7) as the rhizobium bacteria that fix nitrogen for the bean plant require good soil pH levels to function efficiently. Weed control is also critical in optimising yield potential as beans are poor competitors.
Scutch should be eliminated prior to drilling, and glyphosate should be applied as soon as possible to green stubbles.