Decisions made at drilling have repercussions all the way to harvest. A well-established crop provides more crop competition to fight weeds and higher yields at harvest. But there are dangers, high disturbance drilling can cause significant black-grass germination, and when populations are high, even an effective herbicide programme can still leave many black-grass plants.
Drilling later in the second half of October, using stale seedbeds and making sure that disturbance at drilling is lower than previous operations can all help reduce black-grass levels in the crop. Drilling with less disturbance depends on the type of drill and how it is calibrated – some drills provide more flexibility than others. Watch these videos where soil and cultivation specialist Philip Wright gives his thoughts on four different types of drill:
Making sure the seed has good seed-to-soil contact is essential with direct drills as there is little or no seedbed preparation. Forward speeds are also important as pulling a drill through can create fissures and cracking in the soil.
Cultivator drills are a straightforward way to produce a seedbed and establish a crop but the level of disturbance can be dangerous for black-grass control. But many cultivator drills are adjustable, discs and tines can be removed or lifted up to leave a lower disturbance option.
Disc drills are a good option for low disturbance drilling but they do have drawbacks with residues and wet soils. On wet ground, discs can smear soil and pin straw into the seedbed reducing seed to soil contact.