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Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

How to make the transition from conventional systems

Published 17/02/2016 | 02:30

The main crops grown include winter oilseed rape, winter and spring barley and winter wheat.
The main crops grown include winter oilseed rape, winter and spring barley and winter wheat.

Noel Furlong doesn't pretend his change to a strip tillage system was seamless. On the contrary, he admits it is a system that needs preparation and persistence over a couple of seasons in order to see the benefits. He has used certain management guidelines to help smooth his transition from conventional to a strip tillage system;

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Soil management

It is imperative to get drains and wet spots sorted out and to plough and level the farm so you are starting with a level stubble for strip tillage the following season. This will alleviate any drop in yields in the early years as you move into the system.

Harvest management

Make sure the straw is chopped and spread evenly. If you're baling then make sure the chaff is spread evenly. When harvesting, pay particular attention to compaction. Ensure wide tyres are used on the combine and avoid ruts from trailers. Face trailers for the field exit before filling.

Drill early

Drill earlier in the autumn, ie a week to 10 days earlier than usually, and the opposite in spring, ie a week to 10 days later.

The reason for this is because of soil temperatures - with strip tillage you want to plant into slightly warmer soil, and when you are not tilling up the soil beforehand it doesn't get any chance to warm up from the sun.

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Weed control

This starts in the previous crop. Sterile brome is a big worry in Ireland, so as with min till chemical control needs to be available as a management tool.

To manage this, proper crop rotation and the 'crop break' technique of spraying back a 12 to 14 inch break from the base of the hedge row has enabled him to control sterile brome.

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