Crop residue management benefits salad grower for year-round harvesting.
A new front-mounted Major Cyclone in 6.3m working width was the key to improved crop residue management and operational efficiencies at New Shoots farm near Saxmundham, Suffolk.
With over 1,000 acres of salad crops and year-round harvesting at the centre of the operation, the management team at New Shoots Ltd near Saxmundham, Suffolk prioritises efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
This major salad producer uses a strategic rotational growing plan, working with neighbouring farms to maximise break-crop rotations, improve crop yields and minimise disease and pest risk carry-over. Crops include varieties of baby-leaf spinach, lettuce, maize and sweet corn, plus potatoes, onions and grass. Some of the crops are grown under a strict organic regime to meet market demand and all produce goes to a central wholesale pack-house for national distribution.
Operational planning crucial to maximising efficiency
The family-owned business employs senior managers in roles such as Harvest Manager, Planting Manager, Technical Manager and Business Development Manager to deliver time-critical activities on this intensive farming operation.
Ignas Šarlauskas is one of the farm managers at New Shoots Ltd. “We normally start drilling salad crops in March and that process runs through until September,” he begins to explain. “Whereas our salad crop harvesting usually starts from April onwards and is followed by harvesting of cabbages and brassicas from November through until April the following year. You can see this is a very high output, maximum efficiency operation which runs year-round, day-in, day-out.”
Flail mower a drag on operations
A challenge of growing multiple types of crops is the risk of pests and diseases carrying over from residual stubble and crop waste. “Before preparing the seedbed for the follow-on crop, we used a three-metre flail mower to chop crop residues such as maize and sweet corn stubble,” Ignas commented. “However, it’s a very slow process with the flail mower – it needs a lot of power to drive and that means extra fuel costs.”
“The second issue was the flail didn’t pulverise the maize stalks sufficiently – it left lots of clumps which didn’t disintegrate fully and disappear into the tilth. This is problematic because large pieces of maize stubble can harbour pests and diseases.”
Ignas recounts a previous problem. “We grew baby-leaf spinach after maize and the un-chopped stalks kept us from harvesting the leaves. That is unacceptable! So we had to look at a better system.”
Neighbouring farmer shares success of Cyclone
A neighbouring farm with whom New Shoots works together on crop production and land share suggested they take a look at the Major Cyclone. This farm happened to use one to maintain grassland for livestock and suggested Ignas might want to try one out.
“I had already seen the neighbour’s Cyclone mower in action and really liked the finish it left behind,” enthused Ignas. “Everything was pulverised – the vegetation just disappeared into the grass ley!”
“That is exactly the kind of finish we wanted with our crop residue so we decided to get the Major Cyclone in 6.3m working width,” continued Ignas. “We decided on the front-mounted version because it suited our operation.”
“The problem was solved! It did an amazing job. Immediately our previous carry-over issues of clumpy residue disappeared overnight.”
What are the other benefits of the Major Cyclone?
“We immediately halved our fuel costs!” exclaims Ignas. “Plus our work output is much faster than the flail because the Major Cyclone is twice the width of the previous machine. Twice the width than the flail yet requiring less power, therefore a small tractor, that means less fuel required.”
“It also means our operations are more timely, which is important for our time-critical production system,” continues Ignas. “The Cyclone absolutely shreds everything in its path and leaves the finely chopped residue spread across the entire width of the machine. Having a front-mounted version means it’s much easier for us to operate and maintain accuracy in our fields.”
Cyclone delivers versatility and financial gains
“We can easily adjust the cutting height and intensity of chop on the Cyclone, which gives us flexibility in choosing the kind of finish we want for the job in hand. This is perfect for preparing the seedbed for the next crop.”
“Our local dealer TNS have been selling MAJOR products for several years and they recommend it for durability, reliability and long lifespan. It’s made using a very high grade of steel and galvanised against rust so it means we have an investment that will last a long time. This all makes financial sense from a production and input cost analysis.”
“Apart from crop residue management, we also use the Cyclone for maintaining a nine-metre grass margin around the cropping areas,” added Ignas. “These maintained margins help minimise dust contamination and avoid rutting from constant traffic. We top them every couple of weeks with the Cyclone to present a well-managed finish to our fields. At the same time, it improves the growing environment.”
“The Major Cyclone has brought us many operational and financial benefits and it’s been the right buying decision for our business,” Ignas concludes. “We share our mowers with our neighbouring dairy farmers and would recommend it to anyone who wants to successfully manage grassland or crop residue in the most efficient and cost-effective way.”