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Crop establishment systems

Plough

This is the most commonly used method of crop establishment. This is a conventional soil inversion method that usually takes place at a depth of 9-12 inches. The plough inverts the top layer of the soil; this gives a fresh seedbed for planting into free from weeds allowing the emerging seeds to flourish. Having undergone the ‘test of time’ it is no wonder Irish farmers don’t stray too far from their plough. This method of crop establishment is the most reliable in this climate and acts as a good weed control method. However, the draw backs are evident with soil erosion ie: run-off and poor infiltration caused by the development of a plough pan. Sterile brome has become a common grass weed problem with this method.

Min-till

This method of crop establishment is sometimes referred to as conservation tillage. It is a establishment method that reduces the amount of tillage passes by at least 40% relative to the amount of tillage passes or soil disturbances required to establish a crop the conventional way. 

Strip till

This crop establishment method is similar to direct drilling but has some disturbance to the soil. Strip tillage should only cultivate less than one third of the field area, seeds are sown in these strips of disturbed soil, the area between the strips is left untouched. Sterile brome, black grass and wild oats are a problem in this system.

No till/Direct drill

Direct drilling is a method of crop establishment that involves making a slit in the soil with a disc, the seed is then blown into the slit in the soil. This method has no soil disturbance. It is important however to establish a stale seedbed prior to sowing as weed control can be difficult otherwise. The method favours major grass weeds problems to develop in the field. Black-grass, wild oats and bromes thrive in this cultivation system due to the lack of seed burial from cultivation practices. When managed correctly these weeds can be controlled.