Harvesting methods

Part of Experiment rpg5

Harvesting methods

The plots were originally cut by scythe, then by horse-drawn and then tractor-drawn mowers. The mowing maching was first used for the first cut in 1901, though it had been used for the second cut since 1881. The plots were cut each year for hay, usually in June, and a second cut taken in the autumn since 1875. A second cut was not taken every year, and not from every plot each year, if there was insufficient herbage to sample. No second cut taken 1856-1874, 1876, 1884, 1885, 1887, 1899, 1911, 1914, 1921, 1924, 1933 or 2003. In 1903-1917, the second cut was taken from the whole plot, not the Limed and Unlimed halves. The regrowth after the first cut was grazed by sheep 1856-1872, except for 1866, 1870, and 1873 and 1874, when the regrowth was mown but not removed from the plots.

Yields were originally estimated by weighing the produce from the whole plot, either as hay (1st harvest) or green crop (2nd harvest), and dry matter determined. Since 1960, yields of dry matter have been estimated from strips cut with a forage harvester. However, for the first cut the remainder of each plot is still mown and made into hay, continuing earlier management and ensuring return of seed. For the second cut, the whole of each plot is cut with a forage harvester. Consequently recorded yields of dry matter are now larger than previously as fewer losses occur. The following correction factor should be used for post-1960 data for cut 1 to give yield values equivalent to pre-1960 values:

Ycut 1 = 0.2743 x (YF 1.662 ) (Bowley et al, 2017)

where YF = yield collected by forage harvester, t/ha. The correction factor was obtained from the relationship between yields for hay and forage harvested cuts (r2 = 0.90) for a selection of plots for 1959 and 1992-1994. For more details, refer to Bowley et al, 2017 (see Key References below).

Since 2021, a new machine has been in use, the 'Amazone Forage Harvester'. It cuts a width of 1.5m rather than the previous 1.1m. The machine is fitted with a bespoke weighing balance which weighs the cut as it goes. Subsequent analyses take this into account and a conversion is already calculated.

Galium tricornutum Section 8 Broadbalk
Harvesting 1941

Non-herbicide plot section 8 Broadbalk
Harvesting 1st cut 2005

Broadbalk elevated view
Harvesting 1st cut 2005

Galium tricornutum Section 8 Broadbalk
Cutting 2nd cut 2015

Non-herbicide plot section 8 Broadbalk
Raking 2nd cut 2015

Broadbalk elevated view
Weighing 2nd cut 2015

Galium tricornutum Section 8 Broadbalk
Weighing sub-samples for % moisture 2nd cut 2015

Non-herbicide plot section 8 Broadbalk
Dried samples 2nd cut 2015

Broadbalk elevated view
Labelled sample tins 2nd cut 2015

Galium tricornutum Section 8 Broadbalk
Amazone Forage Harvester June 2022 at south side of Park Grass

Non-herbicide plot section 8 Broadbalk
Park Grass 2022 mowing east end

Broadbalk elevated view
Mowing Park Grass June 2022

Key References

2017

  • Bowley, H. E. , Mathers, A. W. , Young, S. D. , Macdonald, A. J. , Ander, E. L. , Watts, M. J. , Zhao, F. J. , Mcgrath, S. P. , Crout, N. M. J. and Bailey, E. H.(2017) "Historical trends in iodine and selenium in soil and herbage at the Park Grass Experiment, Rothamsted Research, UK", Soil Use and Management, 33, 252-262
    DOI: 10.1111/sum.12343

For further information and assistance, please contact the e-RA curators, Sarah Perryman and Margaret Glendining using the e-RA email address: era@rothamsted.ac.uk