Arguably, as arable farmers our main concern is harvesting sunlight and converting energy from the sun into dry matter which we can use and sell. We believe that light interception has a big influence on crop health, straw strength and yield potential.
One of the ways we have been increasing light into our crop is by experimenting with row widths and coulter options. Every year we drill three Oilseed Rape trial plots with our Mzuri Pro-Til – 33cm row spacing with the single coulter, 33cm row spacing with the double coulter and 66cm row spacing with the double coulter.
In doing so we aim to prove that giving plants more space and thus access to light, enables them to fulfil their potential in terms of architecture by promoting branching lower down the plant and in tern supporting higher yields.
From the video of the plots side by side it is clear that the 33cm row spacing with the double coulter is the most effected by lodging by the end of June. The 33cm row spacing with the single coulter fairs better but there is still some early lodging visible from the drone shot. The last plot drilled at 66cm row spacing using the double coulter is the least affected with little to no problem areas.
The wider row allows more light to enter the crop which promotes a stronger, thicker straw able to withstand lodging and support a higher yielding crop. Whilst there was some visible difference as to the level of lodging in both of the 33cm plots, the double coulter suffered the most with visibly thinner straw.
This trend carried through until harvest and the impact of varying levels of light interception was clear.
Side by side in the same field, the three plots are all treated equally agronomically and drilled at the same seed rate for comparison.
This year over the course of the growing season all three plots looked well, but it wasn’t until we neared harvest that the difference really began to show.
At harvest the difference was to the line. Large portions of both the single and double coulter 33cm row spaced plots had lodged, which ultimately reduced output as we sought to minimise losses. As we had expected the 66cm row spaced crop stood well with no notable lodging and sailed through the combine.
It’s not just reducing lodging that increased light interception can benefit, we have noticed that wider row spacings for all crops on the farm have provided better airflow around plants reducing disease pressure. The wider rows also allow for better weed control as our contact herbicides can achieve better contact with weeds increasing their effectiveness. Minimising the risk of lodging through light interception helps the crop to ripen evenly, reducing the number of red seeds for a better sample at harvest. The wider row spacing was also found to promote branching from a lower point on the plant compared to the narrower spacing, enabling the plant to fulfil its potential architecture and thus yield.
Springfield Farm Manager