Tillage tools to protect soils
In eastern Europe, the Contivo project is helping farmers utilise new technology in conservation tillage, integrated with more effective and targeted use of crop agronomy techniques.
Its aim is to protect valuable soil resources and reduce the impact on water sources, whilst also increasing yields and raising incomes to retain farm viability and sustain the rural community.
It is an approach and adoption of techniques that holds a number of similarities with the UK - with a range of research initiatives seeking to protect water catchment areas currently being supported by Syngenta. Their work could help provide farmers with practical measures to comply with the Water Framework Directive and other legislative obligations.
In north east Hungary, arable grower Karoly Budi (right) crops 600 hectares near Alsódobsza. A long-established family farm, over the past three years he has moved to conservation tillage and modified the farm’s cropping.
“It will enable us to better cope with the double whammy of increasingly difficult climatic conditions and more volatile commodity prices,” report Karoly Budi.
He says the tillage techniques are faster and less expensive than the traditional plough, but more importantly give the flexibility to tailor the cultivation depth required for each field and specific crop rooting requirement.
“We are doing enough to allow each crop to fully develop, but also retaining soil moisture during drought and minimising disturbance to the soils that will reduce erosion risk after heavy rain,” he adds.
Allied to the new tillage techniques for establishing the diverse cropping of winter wheat, oilseed rape, barley, sunflower and maize, Karoly has modified his fertiliser planning to develop a specific nutrition programme for each crop - based on its genetic specific nutrient dose rates - and for each field from detailed soil nutrient analysis.
Karoly highlighted that the change to conservation tillage had resulted in some adaptation to crops agronomy, especially for weed control. It has moved to a more intense, but more precise, system - with better targeting and application of inputs.
Overall, he has seen yields improve to around 20% higher than the regional average across all the crops. Furthermore, he has a better balance of cropping to reduce the impact of market volatility and, he believes, a system that will continue to get better year-on-year for the farm and for the environment.
The Contivo advisory program now supports more than 100 growers across 80,000 hectares in Hungary.
Sharing ideas, results and experiences of projects and initiatives, such as Contivo, has beneficial implications for UK growers and farms across Europe.
Watch the video of the Contivo project and Karoly’s farm below: