One of the (many) advantages of being independent farm consultants AND working farmers is that SWFC’s Tom Tolputt and Anthony Ellis can carry out their own on-farm experiments to find out what works in practice. As Tom explains below, it’s also hugely beneficial in terms of the practical advice we can offer
“In one of several in-house trials this year here at Tredudwell Manor, we’re spraying QLF’s TERRA FED organic carbon fertiliser with Agriton’s ACTIFERM, a specialist mix of beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria and mycorrhizal fungal inoculants, at a rate of 100 litres water / 10 litres TERRA FED / 5 litres ACTIFERM per hectare.
The idea is to boost soil biology on fields that have been disrupted by more cultivation than we’d have liked, kick starting the soil biology, which will hopefully translate into healthier, more resilient soil and, therefore, a healthier crop. Mixing the bacteria with molasses should provide a food source and enable the bacteria and fungi to multiply rapidly, hopefully giving them a better chance to have a positive effect. So we’re spraying several half fields on a range of different crops and cultivations, leaving the other half unsprayed, and will monitor for positive or negative effects by testing and visual observation as the season progresses. (This particular field in the main photo above is freshly sown organic spring barley, sprayed on 21 April).
With the recent dry period, one of my key concerns is that we’re simply not getting sufficient rain to wash the bacteria into the soil. In other words, if we spray it topically, we are relying on rain to wash the mix in (or even wash it away!). And with our changing climate, I’m starting to realise that one of the things we increasingly cannot rely on is the rain.
When we rip we should drip
So instead of applying it topically to the soil after drilling, I think we’d get a better and more reliable response by applying carbon-based fertiliser and molasses along with biostimulants when we are actually cultivating, putting it into the soil rather than on the surface. In other words, when we rip, we should drip.
One of the things we are now looking at is an integrated sprayer built on to the discs, so we can incorporate the bacteria and fungal spores (and molasses feed) directly into the soil during the cultivation process itself and then they’re ready to go. Something to consider for 2021.
I am fairly certain we should be using more Cocksfoot and Timothy because they do better in the drier conditions we seem to be experiencing.
Other more standard trials here at Tredudwell include different approaches with the Garford Robocrop camera hoe, and as leaving small areas unhoed for yield comparison between hoed and unhoed areas. My first instinct is that the plants that have been hoed are looking healthier, especially with the challengingly dry weather we’ve had. On a positive note, despite the significant investment we’ve made in the kit, some fields are so clean that there is no point in wasting money on hoeing!
Finally, we’ve also done a lot of reseeding pastures this spring with different grass seed mixes, specifically looking at developing a longer-term mix with a greater diversity of grass species (without going too crazy). I am fairly certain we should be using more Cocksfoot and Timothy because they do better in the drier conditions we seem to be experiencing. With the changing climate, diversity will be important.
Watch this space! Or get in touch on our Contact page if you’d like further information.