Focus on machines: clearing a corn crop cultivated “without plastic”

It was the desire to move away from plastic planting that led Pat Kinsella to take a long look at how he grew corn for his beef finishing business in County Wicklow.

Plastic on rotary harrow tines
Pat wants to fill his floor with plastic. These fragments came from a field that was planted several years ago

For many years he had followed the tried and trusted method of establishing culture in this way. However, this season he has decided to do without it because of not only the expense but also the fact that it just doesn’t degrade in the ground as is commonly believed.

“Let’s face it, plastic doesn’t rot, it just blows up in ditches,” he said.

Besides the problems with the plastic itself, he also felt constrained by the lack of variety choice imposed by the system.

The snap has opened up a whole new perspective of possibilities when it comes to selecting a guy who might be more suited to the Irish conditions he feels. Check video below to see the substantial harvest.

Beyond plastic

Pat is a big fan of thinking outside the box and the speed with which he has grown and developed the farm over the years suggests that sticking to conventions isn’t always the best way to go.

Pat Kinsella quits the plastic habit
Pat Kinsella is always on the lookout for new ideas and possibilities

While looking for an alternative to plastic, he came across the Pottinger Aerosem drill.

There were two main features of this line of drills that caught Pat’s attention. The first is that they are versatile, able to sow corn, grain and catch crops, while the second is that it can plant corn in a new pattern.

Pottinger Aerosem drill removes plastic
The Pottinger Aerosem drill was chosen for its versatility

Pottinger himself calls this his “Duplex system”, the idea being to divide a single row of seeds in half by shifting each seed 12.5 cm from the previous one.

The centerlines of each split row are always 75cm apart to accommodate standard corn headers on harvesters.

The company lists many advantages of the system, all supported by academic research which has found an average yield increase of 5.5% over conventionally sown crops.

The main reasons for this increase include the greater availability of light, water and nutrients for plants, which have more space to grow their roots and develop the canopy.

Grown without plastic corn crop
Pottinger’s Paul Wilson is 6 feet tall and the crop towers over him. Twin rods in each row are clearly visible

The latter is an important factor in suppressing weeds and encouraging photosynthesis, and it is photosynthesis that captures solar energy and stores it for later use by livestock.

Energy-rich food for bodyweight gain

The breeding model developed by Pat is based on providing as much feed as possible for very efficient Charolais bulls.

He aims to finish animals around 15-18 months with daily bodyweight gains of 2 kg obtained with the right animals.

He employs no staff and works the farm entirely by himself, the main tasks being carried out by contractors.

However, he still does his own seedlings and relies on a variety of crops, including wheat, beets, and grass in addition to corn, to keep the ground covered and produce forage throughout the year.

Plowing in corn crop sown in duplex
Corn stubble is buried ready for a next winter wheat crop

The ability to sow all crops with a single seeder is a huge bonus and coupled with a rotary harrow that can prepare either stubble or cultivated soil for sowing, it has a planting system that covers most situations.

There is also a very significant cost saving. Pat calculates saving around € 24,000 by sowing corn with Aerosem rather than paying a contractor to do it in plastic.

This is in addition to the cost savings of having a versatile planter immediately available on the farm to plant any crop in use, when conditions are right.

pottinger duplex drill
Planter ground speed radar ensures constant seed rate

Indeed, the combination will pay for itself within two years, he thinks, but the proof of the pudding is in eating it and since this is the first season of use for corn, the jury is still out. outside.

Bring the harvest home

Although it is still too early to be absolutely sure of the results, the first indications show that the investment has paid off.

In the field, the crop has grown well and is found in spots, measuring well over 8 feet tall with good sized ears.

Aiden Wicken is impressed with the harvest
Aiden Wicken driving the Harvester. He is impressed with the harvest

The harvest was well advanced when Agriland visited the farm and although there was no precise record of actual performance, Aiden Wickhan, the contractor involved. was suitably impressed with the harvest.

Harvesting maix crops planted in duplex without plastic
Claas Jaguar 980 made it through the crop despite 12 rows per pass

Not that his Claas Jaguar 980 had a hard time getting out of it, anything but.

Equipped with one of only two Claas 12-row headers in Ireland, and with the engine producing something over 850bhp, it was chopping down the rods and spitting them out at a breathless pace.

Quick and effortless harvest

Aiden cuts about 700 acres of corn and 4000 acres of grass with the machine each year. At first glance, this may not seem like enough to justify the expense of such a large header, but once seen in action it all starts to make sense.

An awkward 3ac field was cleared within minutes, while a little too much time was spent waiting for the empty trailers to return from the pit.

Claas 12 rows of folding head
12-row platform folds up quickly and neatly for road transport

Aiden says that with the large unit and the move to side-collecting, he is saving an extra hour of productive work every day.

Its customers are also delighted to see the 12-row header as it reduces field traffic and therefore soil compaction, especially in wet autumns.

The split rows make no difference to the harvest, the trimmer head just takes care of whatever is placed in front of it. Trailers are filled and shipped in a very short time while head folding for movement between fields is fully automated, with no need to leave the cab.

corn silage pit volvo loader
Loading of the pit is entrusted to a Volvo L90H front-mounted twin-wheel loader

Take the bull by the horns

Pat Kinsella stands out as a forward thinking and adventurous farmer who is not afraid to stray from the narrow circle of thinking that sometimes restricts the corn harvest in Ireland.

The use of plastic in corn cultivation is under increasing scrutiny with great concern about the long-term effect on the environment.

Finding an alternative that still produces satisfactory returns is becoming increasingly imperative and those who lead the way will be the first to benefit.

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