Updated: May 22, 2020
We catch up with Murray Cooper, a Growers Club member on his spring barley campaign.
Murray Cooper, Ian Cooper & Partners, Mains of Thornton, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire
The spring barley campaign got off to a flying start at Mains of Thornton, the 120ha organic holding run by Murray Cooper that supports 110 suckler cows and a range of arable crops.
Murray drilled 22ha of spring barley for seed for Dods of Haddington, including 12ha of RGT Planet, which was sown on 23 March, a week earlier than usual.
Murray's RGT Planet get its first weeding
“We’ve no sheep in the system now so we didn’t have to wait for them to tidy up stubbles or fodder crops, so we got in earlier with the plough,” he says.
Most is second-year RGT Planet, so the stubble received 25t/ha of muck before ploughing and rolling. It was then sown with an 8m System Cameleon, a drill built by Swedish firm Gothia Redskap that doubles up as an inter-row weeder.
“We conserved the moisture and the crop got away well,” says Murray. “But we had very little rain after that until the second weekend of May, when we had 15mm. It then shot away.
“We’ve been through it once with the Einbock tined weeder and will follow up with the System Cameleon to get rid of any bigger surviving weeds before stem extension. That should see it through to combining.”
The System Cameleon is converted from drill to hoe by simply replacing the seeding coulters with winged versions and adjusting the track of the drill from the cab so they run in the centre of the rows.
A Trimble RTX system simplifies the driving operation; only occasional adjustments are needed enough to keep the operation on track and the hoes pulling out weeds rather than the crop. Typical work rate is 2.5-3ha per hour.
Recent rain has helped Murray Cooper's RGT Planet grow away
To help reduce operational footprints further, Murray has switched to an 8m semi-controlled traffic farming regime to match the width of the rolls, drill and weeders. He also operates a 24m sprayer to fit the system.
“Given the number of times we go through the crop, it makes sense to keep compaction to a minimum,” he says.
The Planet has started to tiller, and Murray planned to Cambridge roll it this week to encourage more. The crop has had a prescription of foliar feeds – he has budgeted £55/ha this season – and he is increasing the foliar potassium to boost straw strength.
He believes it will be money well spent. “All the spring barley was hit hard by the very wet, stop-start harvest last year. Planet produced the best yield, with one field averaging 2.8t/acre. All of it had the potential to average over 2.5t/acre, but a lot went flat and we ended up with 1.78t/acre.”
Murray is also growing a further 8ha of conventional RGT Planet on rented ground, in a blend with Propino, left over from a seed crop grown last year for private customers. It will go for feed for the 1100 ewes and 45 cows that run on his 120ha conventional unit where he grows fodder crops and grass.