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Thread: Advice for new DD'er

  1. #1
    Cropper
    Guest

    Post Advice for new DD'er

    What is the consensus regarding straw incorporation/removal when direct drilling?
    If there is a choice when would removal be prefered or vice versa. is it better to leave the straw so a mulch builds up near the soil surface or is it preferable to keep the soil surface free so residuals can work better?
    I imagine that in a wet season it might be better to remove straw so there is less slug habitat but conversely removal might cause soil structure damage.
    Do these factors change in importance after the initial change over from cultivations?
    I am considering using a Claydon but my worry is that if we have a wet back end the crops may not establish well with this system.
    Should a gradual change over be made or is it ok to change everything at once?
    Thanks for any advice.

    Cropper

  2. #2
    Willscale
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Cropper View Post
    What is the consensus regarding straw incorporation/removal when direct drilling?
    If there is a choice when would removal be prefered or vice versa. is it better to leave the straw so a mulch builds up near the soil surface or is it preferable to keep the soil surface free so residuals can work better?
    I imagine that in a wet season it might be better to remove straw so there is less slug habitat but conversely removal might cause soil structure damage.
    Do these factors change in importance after the initial change over from cultivations?
    I am considering using a Claydon but my worry is that if we have a wet back end the crops may not establish well with this system.
    Should a gradual change over be made or is it ok to change everything at once?
    Thanks for any advice.

    Cropper
    If you can get an ok price for it then I'd sell it. It makes life easier and you can feed your worms when you chop rape/spread some muck or compost or slip a cover crop in.

    Don't rob the farm of straw but if you have a 4 t/acre crop of wheat then better to bale some of it then make life too hard especially in early stages. If you have a lighter crop of spring barley without much market then why not chop?

    Gradual change in terms of picking and choosing fields but don't bother with phasing in minimum tillage for a few years but keep some sort of subsoiler and very light cultivator to dig you out of a hole.

  3. #3
    Glenn49801
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    If you can return the straw to the ground in the form of muck do that.

  4. #4
    Cropper
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    Straw sales should be a profit geared decision only. If your having to sell straw because your moving to DD, then I am not sure its the right thing to do because why are you having to sell it?

    I have never seen a worse slug problem due to straw chopped or baled. I have however seen shocking slug problems from direct drills in both chopped and baled stubbles. Its more about the drill and firming the seed into the soil properly that the residue from the previous crop.
    I would naturally only sell straw if it was profitable but wanted to know from those with more experience of the technique if itwould be advantageous to remove straw when the soil is still in flux and hopefully earthworm populations increasing or is it better to leave the organic matter for those worms to mix into the undisturbed soil.

    The couple of fields that were drilled with a Claydon last autumn (2nd wheat - straw removed) just for a trial are looking very good; weed control better than min tilled fields adjacent, soil structure looking good with some large vertical worm tunnels and plenty of vertical fractures, and particularly relevant this spring - tramlines travelling well and water draining through them quicker than the min-tilled fields.

    I am asking myself if I had chopped the straw would it have been better for the soil, and if so Lee how do you put a price on better soil structure? x% higher yields in the future-lower fuel usage- lower inputs necessary going forward? Cumulatively the potential advantage could dwarf the short term profit of selling the straw but I don't know which is why I was asking.

    I know it is not for everybody but I feel that in my situation it should work and if it helps me to lower my cost per tonne produced it helps my business to survive what is yet to come.!

    Cropper

  5. #5
    marco
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    cropper, there are two different options here, do you own or rent?

    If you own i'd be inclined to chop the straw and try and start reducing my P and K inputs. The organic matter should be very valuable although maybe in the first few years you could just cut a bit higher till the system gets going and not overload it with too much straw.

  6. #6
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    I won't be selling straw again, regardless of price - I have some commitments made for this harvest but beyond that I now see it as the most important input I can ever put back in to my crop

    looking at straw as P and K is s gross oversimplification of what it does in soil and its value is second only to muck or OM from cover crops or volunteers IMO

    I aim to DD as much of my farm as possible and straw incorporation will be an essential part of the success of that

    Other than the lost carbon not selling it removes a big source of potential compaction as well and I don't want to be undoing good structures with a subsoiler unless absolutely necessary

  7. #7
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by marco View Post
    cropper, there are two different options here, do you own or rent?

    If you own i'd be inclined to chop the straw and try and start reducing my P and K inputs. The organic matter should be very valuable although maybe in the first few years you could just cut a bit higher till the system gets going and not overload it with too much straw.
    I'm not sure landlords would be impressed to see a tenant thinking like that !!! maybe a bit of a short termist mindset ??

  8. #8
    Tomsewell
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Clive View Post
    I won't be selling straw again, regardless of price - I have some commitments made for this harvest but beyond that I now see it as the most important input I can ever put back in to my crop

    looking at straw as P and K is s gross oversimplification of what it does in soil and its value is second only to muck or OM from cover crops or volunteers IMO

    I aim to DD as much of my farm as possible and straw incorporation will be an essential part of the success of that

    Other than the lost carbon not selling it removes a big source of potential compaction as well and I don't want to be undoing good structures with a subsoiler unless absolutely necessary
    At last some real common sense, I couldn't say it better!!
    We haven't put P, K or lime on for at least 15 years because our soils are fine (all tested every 3 yrs in rotation by independent soils) we do have some good soils that are ex hops and fruit but we also chop almost everything. Only if it's politically beneficial will I bale

    I'm sure chopping straw retains more moisture and improves numbers of earthworms as well. Adding a bit of compost (12t/ha approx) this year as well.

    If lands too expensive to rent or buy improve what you've got!!

    Btw Clive what drill do you run?

  9. #9
    Feldspar
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Clive View Post
    I won't be selling straw again, regardless of price - I have some commitments made for this harvest but beyond that I now see it as the most important input I can ever put back in to my crop
    Going to keep the stripper header then?

  10. #10
    Feldspar
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    If your going full bore DD then don't sell straw because it can undo the good work your trying to do.

    However to change the soil 'make up' your talking hundreds of years. What you do in your working life will hardly make a difference.
    I'd like to know if you're basing the second claim on a study / studies and, if so, which one(s)?

    Thanks.

    (Usual message: I'm not trying to be cheeky, it's a genuine question.)

  11. #11
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomsewell View Post

    Btw Clive what drill do you run?
    Just bought a 750a but we will also have a tine option available as required if all goes to plan

    Quote Originally Posted by Feldspar View Post
    Going to keep the stripper header then?
    not sold it yet, not tried to infact will see how things go ! but I have a drill that will cope so it wold be daft to not at least try it !

  12. #12
    York
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    If your going full bore DD then don't sell straw because it can undo the good work your trying to do.

    However to change the soil 'make up' your talking hundreds of years. What you do in your working life will hardly make a difference.
    Lee,

    wouldn't bet my life on this one.
    Over here a Prof. which teaches that you can't have decent numbers of worms on sand soils, I mean our soils which are often like beach sand, has now to review his "teachings" as his students now found over 280 worms per square m2 on such soils. He said, that 100 would be already more than possible.
    The next time you come over to look at your tipping trailer manufacturer just come and see.
    We have the first fields with 8+ t/ha of Wheat with just 120 N/ha, rape with just 3 paces with the sprayer yielding 4 t/ha, etc..
    Next 10 days we are getting some more understanding of how to increase SOM within 4 years by 1 %, without artificial inputs and sacrificing yield.
    Folks it pays to invest in soil.
    But Lee, please don't come and waste your time if you are not open to "erase" all what you have learned. If you are not starting with a blank sheet you are wasting your time.
    York-Th.

  13. #13
    Feldspar
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Clive View Post
    Just bought a 750a but we will also have a tine option available as required if all goes to plan



    not sold it yet, not tried to infact will see how things go ! but I have a drill that will cope so it wold be daft to not at least try it !
    Exciting. I look forward to hearing about how it all works.

    Did you buy a new 750a?

    The more I learn in this area the more miserable I become when sitting on the tractor + press, bumping over huge sods of earth, oxidising vast volumes of hydrocarbons, doing goodness-knows-what to my spine, only to produce bulletproof clods which are then jiggled around with little effect by a maschio to produce a 'seedbed'. Humph!

  14. #14
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Feldspar View Post
    Exciting. I look forward to hearing about how it all works.

    Did you buy a new 750a?
    no - have bought a used one with gutters already on - pretty depreciation proof kit relatively speaking, if it goes well I will look at new in the future but if it doesn't I think I would get out of it without loosing my shirt !


    wish I hadn't committed to sell the straw I have now (about 20%) even at 50/ac I would much rather have the straw now I think I have a proper understanding of what we need to be doing going forward

  15. #15
    Greg
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Clive.

    I don't wish to appear cheeky,but for the benefit of other BFF'ers could you tell us what was the main factor in you changing to DD.

    Regards,
    Greg.

  16. #16
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    Clive.

    I don't wish to appear cheeky,but for the benefit of other BFF'ers could you tell us what was the main factor in you changing to DD.

    Regards,
    Greg.
    not at all cheeky !

    Many reasons but we have done it before (all be it strip till with a Claydon) for 2 years and it worked well for us then but not so well for Lee, situation at the time though meant it made more sense to continue to share fixed costs and return to a min till / rapid based situation

    The fixed cost factor is no longer the case though as our establishment has become separate from Lee's now so I can do what I think will suit our farm best. I know DD will work on our farm as over the last 15 years we have tried various drills and techniques and have rarely had a bad result.

    I have become much more aware of what we need to be doing to our soils though now and DD is the ONLY way to achieve this, most of our land is quite light, we can't average 4t plus type yields so I need to improve that and as water is the limiting factor on light land doing everything to use every bit of water that we do have is very important, maximising humus / carbon in the soil and getting a good structure and doing whatever we can to minimise evaporation is the way to do that and DD is the only way that can be achieved

    Metal costs last year really focused my attention - we spent a fortune on solo metal last year (20k plus !!) I can't afford to do that and am now convinced the solo is more likely to destroy our soil structure than help it = madness !!

    Fuel costs are getting a big factor - I have had my share of big tractors that have got bigger and bigger over the years until last year I find myself in a field filling up a 600hp tracked monster yet again with 1000L of diesel at a time and wonder WHY ?? do we really need these machines ?? I no longer think so when a 750a can be pulled by a light 150hp tractor !

    In short I think we can save a fortune going back to DD whilst improving soils and hopefully yields, If things go according to plan this year I reckon we will save 50-60k this autumn alone. When I can ultimately drop more HP / labour going forward I will save even more.

    If I can improve yields along the way through improved soil then that will further add to my bottom line - I know we won't see lower yields as I have (kind of !) done this before

    It's a no brainer really !

  17. #17
    Willscale
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Clive

    I think you should get a Dale drill to complement the 750. From what I'm doing here, 80% of the time the 750 will do what I need but there have been times when I could have done with a tine or a tiny bit of black soil for various reasons - this years Spring Rape is a good example.

    You had good results with the Vaddy Seedhawk and I think those two tools would go well together. And importantly low hp requirement which some of the strip till stuff struggles with.

  18. #18
    Greg
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Clive.

    Thank you for the succinct reply.

    I believe your major problem will be slugs,so maybe you should keep a bit of recreational cultivation equipment.

    Regards,
    Greg.

  19. #19
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    Clive.

    Thank you for the succinct reply.

    I believe your major problem will be slugs,so maybe you should keep a bit of recreational cultivation equipment.

    Regards,
    Greg.
    For sure slugs are an issue, our land is not too bad for them though so I hope we can keep things that way, will be monitoring carefully and avoiding methalyde products which I think will make a big difference

    Pellet applicator will be fitted to the drill and will be making a big effort with rolls to get consolidation right which I think is 90% of the battle

  20. #20
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Willscale View Post
    Clive

    I think you should get a Dale drill to complement the 750. From what I'm doing here, 80% of the time the 750 will do what I need but there have been times when I could have done with a tine or a tiny bit of black soil for various reasons - this years Spring Rape is a good example.

    You had good results with the Vaddy Seedhawk and I think those two tools would go well together. And importantly low hp requirement which some of the strip till stuff struggles with.

    I have no intention of relying on one disc drill to cover all situations. Something tined along the lines you suggest will be added at some point

    Seed hawk worked well for us as you say on demo and the dale is basically the same thing - not buying anything new and shiney though as these things are bargains used !

    I also think strip till has a place in this and a Mzuri working alongside something like a 750a might also be a good solution but as you say does depend on keeping bigger hp involved

    It's about flexibility though and I still have the ability to cultivate every ac if I need to at the moment and will still do so if I think that's the best thing to do at the time, I think the biggest mistake that even the best dd'ers make is that sometimes they can suffer from tunnel vision

  21. #21
    Greg
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    I think Sir Will has a new friend so that will broaden his approach to DD

  22. #22
    Willscale
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    I think Sir Will has a new friend so that will broaden his approach to DD
    I reckon I've cracked winter cropping pretty well now. Don't mind disc drilling anything in for Winter crops. Don't feel I particularly need subsoil much either, apart from headlands from baler turns or muckspreader tracks on headlands.

    I've had a bit of trouble this Spring with SOSR though. I think I should have had a bit of black soil with a subsoiler and accepted more weeds especially in areas where I had higher residue from meadowgrass and couch (which looking back I should have grazed harder with sheep in about January and then left to green up again).

    Had it been spring wheat, barley or peas I think it would have been fine with a disc. I also feel that the muck I spread was too fresh and too thick which didn't help SOSR germination. Composting FYM is a bit of a PITA so I need to figure a better way on that for the moment.

    The general direction is the right one I think with still a few mistakes here and there.

    The thing I don't like about strip till/ high disturbance seeding is disturbing weed seeds at the same time as growing the crop, that said it may be the best thing to do for certain crops at certain times of year

  23. #23
    Tomsewell
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    Clive.

    Thank you for the succinct reply.

    I believe your major problem will be slugs,so maybe you should keep a bit of recreational cultivation equipment.

    Regards,
    Greg.
    Do you mean cultivate more to get rid of slugs??!!!

    I would rather a big set of rolls and a slug pelleter!

  24. #24
    peasantman
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    I understand what people are saying about benefits of leaving the straw on the ground in a direct drilling situation and we try to do that wherever possible.

    However, we sometimes follow wheat with OSR (though we prefer to follow grass with OSR), and trying to drill OSR into a 4t/acre wheat crop straw mat with our disc drill is not always a recipe for success. To get enough pressure to cut the mat usually ends up with the seed too deep. Also, if heavy rain follows drilling then the toxins seem to leach out of the straw and kill the seedlings. Either that or damping off.

    The timescale between harvesting the wheat and drilling the rape is very small allowing little time for the straw to breakdown.

    IMO, it's a consiberable risk drilling OSR directly into chopped straw, though I am sure with a fair wind one could get away with it. I would sleep easier with a bit of soil disturbance like the shakerator we use.

    Somebody on here suggested spraying the straw with liquid N before drilling. Maybe that is a good idea, and would prevent the seedlings being starved of N as the straw breaksdown.

  25. #25
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by peasantman View Post
    I understand what people are saying about benefits of leaving the straw on the ground in a direct drilling situation and we try to do that wherever possible.

    However, we sometimes follow wheat with OSR (though we prefer to follow grass with OSR), and trying to drill OSR into a 4t/acre wheat crop straw mat with our disc drill is not always a recipe for success. To get enough pressure to cut the mat usually ends up with the seed too deep. Also, if heavy rain follows drilling then the toxins seem to leach out of the straw and kill the seedlings. Either that or damping off.

    The timescale between harvesting the wheat and drilling the rape is very small allowing little time for the straw to breakdown.

    IMO, it's a consiberable risk drilling OSR directly into chopped straw, though I am sure with a fair wind one could get away with it. I would sleep easier with a bit of soil disturbance like the shakerator we use.

    Somebody on here suggested spraying the straw with liquid N before drilling. Maybe that is a good idea, and would prevent the seedlings being starved of N as the straw breaksdown.
    I think OSR after wheat (straw chopped) is one of the places where a tine is better than a disc on your drill and in that situation that's what I will do

    Wheat after OSR beans or peas easy with a disc drill without issue

    Beans, peas or linseed after wheat I think either is ok but think strip till drills excel here as the beans like the loose rooting zone to grow into

  26. #26
    agricontract
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Will you be useing a stubble rake Clive ?

  27. #27
    Clive
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by agricontract View Post
    Will you be useing a stubble rake Clive ?
    no, not sure I see the point in them if honest, a direct drill should be able to cope with any trash without and there are better ways to manage slug problems if that the reason for use. If you want a chit / stale seedbed then a light wide discing and rolls is surely a better bet as you want to do as good a job as possible and kill maximum grass weeds ?? some would say thats' expensive but your only doing that if you have a grass weed problem and look how much a problem like that costs to control with pesticides (mostly unsuccessfully it seems) !! I hope to not need to do that much though but when I do I will treat the stale seedbed as if I'm establishing a grass crop

    I will be cultivating some land, we have compost and sewage sludge that will need incorporation and we will need to lift tramline ruts on many fields as well unfortunately

    lots to learn but exciting times ahead, I have not been so enthusiastic about farming for a long time !

  28. #28
    Feldspar
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    If your going full bore DD then don't sell straw because it can undo the good work your trying to do.

    However to change the soil 'make up' your talking hundreds of years. What you do in your working life will hardly make a difference.
    Quote Originally Posted by Feldspar View Post
    I'd like to know if you're basing the second claim on a study / studies and, if so, which one(s)?

    Thanks.

    (Usual message: I'm not trying to be cheeky, it's a genuine question.)
    I found a paper entitled, "Quantifying Straw Removal through Baling and Measuring the Long-Term Impact on Soil Quality and Wheat Production", by Lafond et al. (2009) whose abstract is,


    Crop residues are considered the feedstock of choice for the production of ethanol, but removing crop residues may negatively impact soil productivity. The objectives were to quantify the proportion of total aboveground crop residues removed through baling and to evaluate the effects of 50 yr of straw removal with baling on soil quality and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production. The first study evaluated three harvesting systems and their impact on straw removal with baling. The second study measured straw removal after 50 yr on soil quality and wheat production using a fallow-spring wheat-spring wheat rotation (F-W-W) with three different treatments imposed. One treatment was not fertilized with straw retained, and the other two were fertilized with N and P but one treatment retained the straw while the other had the straw baled every year during the cropping years. The proportion of total aboveground residues other than grain removed with baling ranged from 22 to 35% or 26 to 40% depending on the method of calculation based on the first study. Measurements of soil organic carbon (SOC) and nitrogen (SON) showed no differences after 50 yr of straw removal, and spring wheat grain yields and grain protein concentration were also not affected based on the second study. The potential therefore exists to use crop residues for ethanol production or other industrial purposes without adversely affecting the long-term productivity of medium- to heavy-textured soils providing that <40% of the total aboveground residues other than grain are removed and the frequency of removal is no more than 2 yr out of three.

    Their conclusions would seem to support the view that not retaining soil residues not only doesn't have any effect on yield but also, and surprisingly for me anyway, have no effect on SOC.


    This is of course only one study. I had a look at their funding source and there are no obvious conflicts of interest. If anyone is interested in the full paper let me know.

    Edited to add: actually after a bit more digging there are a lot of studies that have been done on this.

  29. #29
    Feldspar
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Here's a contrasting paper's abstract:

    Bioenergy developments could lead to large-scale removal of cereal straw from fields, with consequences for soil organic carbon (SOC) and related properties. In 25 experiments of 6 to 56 yr duration there was a trend for SOC and total soil N content to increase where straw was incorporated annually. However the increases were only significant in six experiments and were <10% in the majority of cases. Increases in microbial biomass C or N were always proportionately greater than for SOC or N. In simulations of annual straw incorporation using the RothC model, 90% of the microbial biomass C increase in 100 yr was reached within 20 yr as biomass C moves toward a new equilibrium value more rapidly than total SOC. Simulations also showed that if straw was removed in 50% of years, SOC and biomass C increases were about 50% of those with annual straw incorporation. There is considerable evidence that small changes in total SOC have disproportionately large impacts on soil physical properties such as aggregate stability, water infiltration rate, and plow draft and that microbial activity is crucial in the formation of stable aggregates. We conclude that, although changes in SOC resulting from addition or removal of straw are small, it would be unwise to remove straw every year as this is likely to lead to deterioration in soil physical properties. Local assessments are required to determine the frequency of straw removal that is acceptable for soil functioning; this will influence the capacity of bioenergy installations.




  30. #30
    texas pete
    Guest

    Re: Advice for new DD'er

    Interesting to hear your change of approach Clive.

    What do you plan to drill your OSR with into chopped wheat straw if you don't mind me asking.

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