Drilling down to the best method of linseed establishment

April 18, 2017 2:44 pm

It would be fair to say that linseed has become an essential part of the farm’s profitable crop rotation and an indispensable tool for controlling blackgrass. This year, we’ve used it as a break crop again and just finished drilling it earlier this week.

No rain for nearly a month gave us plenty of confidence to delay the drilling until the ground was really warm to get the seed away quicker. Coupled with plenty of surface residue to retain moisture and brilliant soil structure awarded by strip tillage, this has given us the absolute optimum conditions for spring crop establishment.

There’s more than one way to make a bed (pardon the pun!), and this spring, we’ve used both the Rezult straw rake and the Pro-Til 3T drill to establish linseed. Proven and tested, both methods produced brilliant results in previous years but we have never tried them side by side to see how they pair up at different growth stages; this year’s head to head trial is intended to do just that.

We drilled linseed into a field with not one but two previous crop residues. Last year’s wheat stubble is still standing proud and you can still see the died-back radish which had been inter-row drilled behind the wheat straight after the combine. The radish grew fast keeping the ground covered over the winter months and mopping up the sunshine; it got killed just as quickly by January frosts, allowing me to clean up the field with glyphosate before drilling to get rid of any grassweeds that may have been present. This left us with a perfect canvas to go into with plenty of surface residue, ample moisture and nutrient-rich, friable soil structure after the radish.


Drilling linseed into last year’s wheat stubble and died back radish

Method 1. One pass drilling with Pro-Til
Soil is king on my farm and everything I do is aimed at preserving it – from minimising disturbance and reducing farm traffic to stubble retention and cover cropping. To me, the fact that the Pro-Til 3T can go directly into previous crop residue in one pass, retaining all the moisture in the ground to the benefit of the crop, must be its main appeal.

Another reason I like the drill is that nothing is left to accident. Rather, every little feature from the front to the back end of the drill is designed to prepare the perfect seedbed. At the front, the discs cut the residue whereas the breaker legs do a fantastic job of cultivating a narrow strip so that the seed is placed into a target-drilled band of friable soil with plenty of moisture, without losing it elsewhere in the field. I also love the fact that the Pro-Til can band place fertiliser behind the leading tine and I was able to put 80kg/ha of Nitrogen just below the seed level to give the linseed roots the best start. The seeding leg gives brilliant seed-to-soil contact and accurate depth control, and I know I can expect even germination throughout the entire field.

Travelling at 10 km/hr, I can cover 3ha/hr with the 3m wide drill. It is, however, a true single pass system and once I’ve drilled it, the job’s done.

Method 2. Establishing linseed with the Rezult harrow

Fitted with a Stocks seeder attachment, the Rezult is not just another straw harrow, and I’ve been using it to establish linseed for a number of years with great success. All you have to do is go across the field twice to get an even coverage of the seed, followed by the paddle rolls the next day. Simple.

I apply 25 kilograms of seed per hectare at each pass which gives me the total seeding rate of 50kg/ha, the same seeding rate as the drill. Whilst the harrow does a brilliant job of incorporating the seed into the top tilth, the paddle rolls finish the job by ensuring a smooth, well consolidated seedbed.

The great thing about the Rezult is that it’s a lighter bit of kit and, combined with a tractor on floatation tyres, it opens up the opportunity to start drilling a couple of days early.

The set-up is simple and I can get the job done quickly – yet with very little disturbance to the ground. Covering a 7.5m width, I can motor at 20km/hr which is double the output of the drill, even when going over the field twice.

However, unlike the Pro-Til drill, the fertiliser has to be applied with a spinner as a separate operation. The application rate for compound fertiliser is 180kg/ha. You’re also more dependable on the rain to give the seed a good soaking which can be a bit of a gamble.

The Verdict

For us, both systems work brilliantly for different reasons. The Pro-Til is the master of moisture preservation, targeted fertilisation and precision seed placement to guarantee successful establishment. The Rezult is simpler and quicker to use, and causes less soil disturbance. This year we’ll be watching the two systems more closely to see how the plots compare at different growth stages and, most importantly, if the method of drilling impacts the yields.

Regardless of the result, the real winner is the simplicity of the Mzuri system. We only have three pieces of crop establishment kit – the Pro-Til drill, the Rezult harrow and the Twose rolls – giving us two seeding methods to choose from so we’re covered for all eventualities.

Now we have plenty of experience with one pass drilling, we can say with confidence that Mzuri is the best system for spring cropping. Strip tillage and cover cropping have completely transformed our seedbed preparation. The secret to successful spring crop establishment is plenty of moisture and good soil structure which you do not get with multiple pass systems. Blanket cultivation just doesn’t make sense. For me, it’s crazy.


Photos (left to right):

Front discs and leading tines prepare the perfect seeding strip, complete with a dose of fertiliser for a quick root boost.
The Pro-Til’s seeding arm ensures accurate depth and excellent seed-to-soil contact.
A quick and simple method of establishing linseed, the Rezult also allows you to go drilling earlier.
Paddle rolls smash up the clods and reconsolidate the soil after drilling.