Demo Field tour part 1 – Broad-ranging research and innovative new varieties on show!

Publish on July 1, 2024
Reading time : < 1 min
RAGT Seeds’ demonstration site at Ickleton in Cambridgeshire has been hosting visitors from across the crop sector over the past few weeks, providing a fascinating insight into the company’s innovative work.

We joined managing director Lee Bennett on one of his many tours, which illustrated the broad range of research on show and, of course, some of the most promising varieties emerging from RAGT’s advanced breeding programmes. Here are some of the highlights.

Pelleted seed – a new sowing innovation

A new concept to improve the reliability of cover crop and companion crop establishment whilst saving growers time and money drew plenty of interest at the event.

Developed and patented by RAGT, the method involves “glueing” up to four different seeds together in a water-soluble coating, producing a pellet with a similar mass to compound fertiliser which can be broadcast into a standing crop of wheat up to 36m.

Lee said: “One of the key areas we think this would be useful is establishing companion crops for oilseed rape.”

“To create enough physical mass to deter flea beetle, a companion crop ideally needs to be planted and left to establish before sowing oilseed rape into it, but no-one wants to drill twice.”

“But everyone has a fertiliser spreader, so they will be able to broadcast the companion crop straight into standing wheat, let it establish and drill rape into the established companion crop after harvest.”

“The big advantage is that broadcasting costs just £5/ha compared with £33/ha for direct drilling. And it takes about a quarter of the time, so we have created massive cost and time savings and much better establishment.”

For growers keen to take as much cost as possible out of oilseed rape production, OSR and companion crop seed could be combined into the same pellet and sown into the standing wheat crop, he added.

These techniques will be tested on six farms this autumn against standard farm practice.

Further applications of the technique include establishment of short-term cover crops between cereals and long-term covers between winter and spring crops, as well as establishing companion crops for wheat. Pelleting stubble turnips is also being tried this season.

“The more we think about it, the more used we are finding for this,” said Lee.

Results from the site show the effectiveness of the technique. Broadcasting a pelleted long-term companion crop mix of vetch, oilseed radish and phacelia into wheat just before harvest (6 Aug 2023) produced 7.4t/ha of dry matter, compared with 2.4t/ha from non-pelleted seed direct drilled into stubble nine days later. Measurements were taken on 29 April 2024.

 

To read the following article of Demo Field tour please click here.

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