Thursday, 4 June 2015

Trialing tramline machinery

Water retention and minimising run-off are considerable soil and water management challenges for agriculture, let alone potatoes, to meet. You’ll be all too aware of the benefits, not just from an environmental perspective and mitigating potential negative impacts, but from the point of preserving an asset and achieving high yielding and quality tubers. Good soil structure free of compaction is fundamental – for drainage and root growth, efficient nutrient use and an adequate oxygen supply, all needed for crops to perform at their best.

Previously, MOPSII, a DEFRA funded project led by ADAS and supported by AHDB Potatoes, looked at mitigating options for phosphorous and sediment losses. And this included studies of various tramline soil management treatments including tines and tied ridges. Results showed there to be practical, cost-effective methods to reduce shallow compaction, run-off, and erosion and diffuse pollution risk. All without impacting yield.

It’s clear that there is still room for improvement in potato production, in terms of both understanding and in-field practice. Effective soil management remains a key activity area today for AHDB Potatoes. Click here to visit our soils homepage for access to recent and on-going research projects as well as our latest management guides and news.

Sandy loams and loams have a potentially well-balanced capacity to retain water, form a stable structure, provide adequate aeration, and possess a suitable thermal regime. Soils that are further away from these soils types are likely to need greater amounts of careful management to maintain the optimal sustainable soil management needed for quality production. The more sandy or gravelly soils more drought prone, while more silty and clayey soils with a tendency to compact and crust, and a higher risk of both drainage impedance and water erosion. At the SPot Farm this season, we’re sited on a sandy clay loam soil - a medium soil with a clay content between 19-35%. Not dissimilar to other soils this type this has the potential for vulnerability to drainage and structural problems.

Three bits of still novel kit are being trialed this season at the SPot Farm on an area of sloped ground. Below are a few picture from James of the machinery in use on what was still some moist ground below the surface.

Richard Lapage's Wonder Wheel in action.

Briggs Tied Ridger - with paddle wheels to form and press consistently sized and spaced dams. More info available at: http://www.briggsirrigation.co.uk/products/tied-ridger/ 

Aqua Agronomy Creyke The Wheel Tracker Roller - forming reservoirs to hold surface water with fissures to help movement through the soil and tines to channel into the adjoining crop. More info available at: http://www.aquagronomy.com/The%20Wheel%20Track%20Roller.pdf 

It would be great to hear of your own experiences and interest in these bits of kit or similar – feel free to comment below. And we will keep an eye on the ridges as we also watch the weather station

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