Two Avadex applicators supplied by Cambridgeshire-based Techneat Engineering are helping to ensure blackgrass control on a Wiltshire farm.
Targeted use of Avadex (tri-allate) alongside regular roguing, cultural systems and sterile seedbeds are all part of a successful blackgrass strategy employed by farm manager Tom Hallett across 1,640ha for JM Stratton & Co at East Farm, near Codford.
“Although we have worked extremely hard to reduce our overall blackgrass burden to a manageable level in most fields, it’s unlikely we will eradicate it completely,” he says. “The whole issue now is one of containment and targeted control.”
Arable crops are direct drilled to minimise soil disturbance and keep dormant blackgrass seeds below the surface. Machinery is regularly cleaned and pre-emergence chemistry sequenced to reduce new infestations.
But Avadex is still the main go-to product – particularly in fields with historical blackgrass problems and on crops such as winter barley, where chemical options are much more limited than on winter wheat.
Mr Hallett purchased the first of two Avacast GR applicators from Techneat Engineering in 2015. The busy autumn period meant the farm had not always able to secure an Avadex contractor within the critical 48 hour window following drilling, he explains.
Both Avacast applicators are mounted on 6m drills. Avadex Excel 15G granules are applied at the same time as seed is drilled – saving both fuel costs and time by removing an additional pass with a machine.
“This also helps maintain our system of controlled traffic and protects the soil,” says Mr Hallett. “They’re accurate and simple to operate with metering matched to the forward speed of the drill.”
Investing in two applicators was a smart move, he adds. “I would estimate that we’ve now recouped most of the original investment costs on the applicators from what we’ve subsequently saved on contractors during the same period.”
The set-up on both machines is straightforward. The Avacast hopper is positioned just in front of the drill to make it more accessible for refilling. Spreader plates are correctly positioned every 500mm along the full width of the drill.
This provides a double overlap and even distribution of the Avadex granules. Mr Hallett says it is also important to ensure the plates are positioned well behind any soil disturbance so Avadex doesn’t contact the seed.
“We calibrate once before use and the machines are as accurate now as the day we bought them,” says Mr Hallett.
Avadex is applied at exactly 15kg/ha. In optimum conditions, drilling at a speed of 10-11kph we can apply up to 50ha of Avadex per day, although this is tempered by some smaller fields and fields further away from the main farm.
Technical back up and support from Techneat on both minor repairs and during the initial set-up period was excellent, adds Mr Hallett. No modifications or alterations have been required since purchase.
“Going forward we also have the option to use both applicators to spread slug pellets whilst establishing rape or to apply cover crops if desired. The range of potential options is definitely another bonus.”