Optimum crop density, appropriate for a species and even for a variety, is the first and foremost condition for a good yield. The number of plants per unit area is already determined at the time of sowing, while soil preparation is of great importance.

Strip tillage of crops

Only seed of the highest quality placed in moist but at the same time aerated and sufficiently warmed up soil will ensure rapid, uniform and complete emergence. Well-prepared soil will not lose its properties quickly and be susceptible to degradation, such as surface crust formation, water or wind erosion. Importantly, soil conditions should be even across the field. However, it is very difficult to achieve such a state under Polish physiographic conditions. Most often fields have soils that, even across small areas, vary in terms of grain size, structure and aggregation, moisture content, temperature, density, compactness, pH and nutrient content. Under such conditions, only when the weather is very favourable, especially the amount and distribution of precipitation, does the emergence of the sown plants become uniform and does not depend to a large extent on the way the soil, and especially the seedbed, which is the top layer, is prepared.

Strip-till seed drill of rape and barley

Even emergence and a similar state of development of all plants in the field in autumn help overwintering. Also, better winter survival of barley and rape crops in the Mzuri Pro-Til technology, found after the winter with little snowfall and at the same time with a short period of night temperatures below -20°C, probably resulted from the seed drilling method. It is worth remembering that the rows of plants are located in little furrows in this technology. This causes them to be shielded from the freezing winds, and even a small amount of snow accumulates around the plants, protecting them from frost. After such winters, the strip-till density of winter rape was on average 8 pcs‧m-2 higher than after ploughing cultivation, despite slightly lower density in autumn. On the other hand, the winter barley density was over 10 pcs‧m-2 higher. In those growing seasons, the density of its ears was also higher, by nearly 40 pcs‧m-2.
A good yield of crops in less favourable agri-habitat conditions is an unquestionable advantage of strip-till technology. Under favourable conditions, i.e. sufficient precipitation, especially at critical developmental stages, as well as after winters favouring good overwintering, grain yields of winter wheat and seed yields of winter rape cultivated with Mzuri Pro-Till technology and after conventional ploughing were the same (Tab. 2). On the other hand, under unfavourable conditions described above, the yields of winter cereals and rape seed drilled after strip tillage were higher than after conventional cultivation. The differences were: winter wheat – 0.7 t ha-1, winter barley – 0.6 t ha-1, winter rape – 0.5 t ha-1.
Comparing the yielding of winter wheat cultivated for three years on different fields of a large farm, its yield was found to be better in strip-till technology than in reduced tillage without ploughing by 0.5 t ha-1 (Fig. 3). This is a very valuable result, as it is the result of actual conditions and production decisions taking place on such farms. They are the very farms that look for the best ways to simplify the highly labour- and energy-intensive conventional plough tillage technology in agricultural practices. Strip-tillage seems to be such a method, providing simultaneous application of mineral fertilisers and seed drilling. In addition to the production effect, which is a high yield, this method must also guarantee good quality. Read about it in our next issue.

Table 1. Plant density (pcs.m-2) of winter wheat after emergence.

Table 2. Crop yields (t ha-1) under different habitat conditions.

Photo 1. Winter wheat uniformity under unfavourable soil conditions

Fig. 1. Uniformity of winter rape plant density within a field

Fig. 2. Average yield of winter wheat from three years of the study.

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