Guy's running for Emmaus

Guy Bennett, from our Hinderclay branch, is running this year’s London Marathon for national homelessness charity Emmaus, after being inspired by the support formerly homeless people receive from his local Emmaus (Norfolk and Waveney).

Guy is running the 26.2 mile race, which takes place in London on 22 April, after seeing first-hand how Emmaus helps to transform the lives of people who have experienced the isolation and social exclusion of homelessness. He said: “I chose Emmaus after seeing the help and guidance the support workers provide to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Guy will be taking on the challenge alongside friend and Emmaus Norfolk and Waveney Support Worker Jemma Pursell, and is hoping to reach his fundraising target of £1,500.

To sponsor Guy, and support the work of Emmaus, please visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GuybennettLondon2018

Apollo Farms Evolution OSR seeder

We are very proud to supply and support Apollo Farms, please see below for March 2018 CPM Magazine article.
A Suffolk farm business put plenty of thought into its move to an oilseed rape establishment system that performs a number of important tasks in one pass. There’s a pleasing satisfaction that comes from walking into a field of oilseed rape in late Feb and seeing well spaced plants, each with a thick crown and just enough canopy to capture the early spring sunshine. Dig one up and it reveals its healthy, long taproot, with side branches set out to explore the Hanslope series chalky boulder clay. The foundation for this crop near Shimpling in Suffolk was put in place with a 5m HE-VA 9-leg subsoiler, with Accu-Disc coulter units. The combination has now established its third OSR crop for Apollo Farms, and it’s proving something of a success, says Fred Rush. “We’ve moved over wholesale to the system –it does three jobs in one go and the plants look a lot better with a very strong root structure. That has to be welcomed.” It was a conscious effort to improve OSR establishment that led the business to the new set-up. “There was nothing wrong with the Väderstad Top Down and Biodrill it replaced. But this does a cleaner job – blackgrass is a challenge for us, and this puts the crop at 55cm row spacings with very little soil disturbed in between. “The seed is placed accurately into loosened soil with liquid fertiliser, then closed up with slug pellets applied. It’s a more targeted approach that helps the crop get through those vulnerable early stages.” This year’s OSR crop extends to 350ha from a total 2000ha of arable land the business farms, alongside a thriving haulage enterprise. It’s grown one year in five, usually after winter barley or wheat, in a rotation that includes spring barley and sugar beet. “We’ve expanded the rotation as much as possible to deal with the dreaded blackgrass,” notes Fred. Previously a solicitor, he joined the business last year as the youngest of three active generations of the Rush family involved in it. Dealing with blackgrass is also one of the key objectives for the new tool, but their approach has slightly differed this year, explains arable operator Matt Tatum. “Normally we’d chop the straw then go straight in with the HE-VA. But last harvest we removed the straw, and I whizzed over the area with the Carrier with a straw rake behind to encourage a blackgrass chit. Then we sprayed that off directly before establishing the OSR.” The subsoiler legs at 55cm spacing are fitted with low disturbance points, set at a depth of around 175-200mm. This loosens the soil for the seeding zone, onto which the fertiliser is sprayed –100-120 l/ha of a 25:12.5:0 mix. The packer roller follows, firming the bed for the double-disc Accu-Disc coulter, that follows directly in the path of the subsoiler leg. A press wheel closes up the slot, and the second seeder unit broadcasts the slug pellets. A pass with the rolls completes the job. The system works well, and Matt can easily cover 40ha/day. “It’s a one-man system, as long as someone sets me up with the 9000-litre bowser so I can refill the front tank.” Lugged along at around 9km/h by the ClaasXerion3800, this uses considerably less fuel in the field than the Quadtrac and TopDown–27 l/hr compared with 100 l/hr. It’s quite a long machine, stretching to 18m from the front tank to the very rear of the seeder. “We’ll generally escort it down our narrow Suffolk lanes, and there’s a camera on the front tank to improve visibility. But it folds up to 3m and it’s not too awkward to manoeuvre. Visibility out the back is great, and that’s where you need it, so it’s definitely better to have a front-mounted tank.” The big issue with the machine has been wearing parts, however. “When we started we were changing points at a phenomenal rate – as much as 2-3 times a day. That’s a lot of down time and the price of low-disturbance points at that time meant the cost of wearing metal alone was almost £32/ha,” says Fred. Their dealer, TNS at Newmarket, helped source alternative points that are then hard-faced in the farm workshop – a job that takes around half an hour – before they’re fitted and brings the bill down to a “much more palatable” £6/ha. “A set of points will now last a day and it takes just 10 mins to fit them,” notes Matt. Opico has also tested a variety of point designs both with and without hard facing and tungsten. This has resulted in HE-VA developing some cast-steel tungsten-tipped low-disturbance points which retail at £35.61 each. These new points last four times longer than the original fabricated points supplied with the machine, says Opico. The machine was one of the first to arrive in the UK, and as such there have been issues to resolve, recalls Fred. “Getting to the seeder units was difficult at first, so we installed a ladder and access platform. But then one day in the field the whole seeder mounting-bracket fell off.” Matt takes up the story: “When it happened, TNS and Opico came out to fix it within a couple of hours and we were back up and running the next day. Then, over winter HE-VA redesigned the platform and upgraded our machine – it hasn’t caused any problems since.” The rims of the outside wheels, that carry the wings, have also cracked and had to be welded, which caused a bit of concern. “It’s frustrating because they’re an odd size so not easy to replace, so this has caused some downtime. But I suspect we’d set it up so it wasn’t carrying the weight correctly. Again, TNS came out and resolved the issue.” One thing they take great care with is calibration, explains Fred. “Every day we do a tray test to check the outlets are operating correctly. There’s never been a problem, but it’s so important the seeding is correct, so it’s worth it just for peace of mind.” The seeder unit has only eight outlets, with an outer pipe originally split to make up the nine. “I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to split the tube that takes the seed that travels the furthest from the fan, so we changed it and the central outlet is now split.” But the attention to detail on the seeding side has paid off and they’ve been confident enough to take seed rates as low as 20 seeds/m², a rate Fred feels produces stronger, thicker plants. An important element of this is the fertiliser applied at planting, and Fred’s convinced this has benefits. “It puts the nutrients in a narrow band, so the emerging seedling gets the nutrition it needs. Our system carries over a lot of straw, which can soak up the N. This applies both seed and fertiliser in a more precise manner.” No pre-emergence or early autumn herbicides are applied because a lack of soil disturbance means a mid-Nov application of Astrokerb (propyzamide+ aminopyralid) is all that’s needed to control grass and broadleaf weeds in most seasons. Clopyralid is sometimes required in the spring to mop up areas of sow thistles. “The starter fertiliser is insufficient for optimal spring crop growth on our hungry clay soils and monammonium phosphate (MAP) is applied to fields with a P index below 3 in the spring. Potash is seldom needed on our K-releasing clays.” The crop generally receives a total of around 250KgN/ha (including autumn N) although rate and application time will vary to manage canopy size.