Direct drilling will yield as good as any other system of cultivation, sometimes more. But only if it is understood as a system. Understand the drill itself.
I have been doing a significant amount of research recently, into climate change and its effects on all of us, but farming in particular. Firstly, the rate of change really does appear to the scientists involved to be picking up speed – still slow but beginning to speed up. The next ten years will be critical. The love affair with the car is the worst offender in producing CO2, then aircraft, but there does appear to be a growing lobby seeing farming as one of the bad bogey men. The culprits are methane (from ruminants) and CO2 from diesel engines and the production of mineral fertilisers (one tonne of N nutrient made in a modern, efficient USA factory takes 21,000 kWh to manufacture and deliver).
Yet more reasons to go direct frilling. However, do not think it is an easy way out, there is just as much husbandry in direct drilling as in 4 or 5 passes of conventional cultivations. Particularly watch compaction in previous operations.
Bill Butterworth Land Research Ltd, 7 February ‘19
In direst drilling, getting even depth of placement and good seed-soil contact is important.
Some will be old enough to remember the Bettinson 3D drill. Direct drilling went out of fashion in the early 1990’s but it is back and what a year in 2018 to start direct drilling! Drought is a killer in the seedbed and cultivations drive off water. So, this year will take a bit of managing and some luck, too. Harrow to get the weed seeds to chit. Shower of rain, please. Green up. Spay off with glyphosate. Direct drill. Showers of rain please. Roll if useful. Would that it were as easy as that. However, it is still much easier than trying to get a wider range of conventional cultivations through. Direct drilling is lower cost, faster and therefore there is a timeliness gain, conserves soil moisture, over-all does give a little better yields, certainly at lower cost.
Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, August 18
In a field in Wiltshire – I’d be ashamed if it were mine. More thistles and wild oats than wheat as a crop. Cultivations and sprays need to be used with a sensitivity to weather to get weed control; economically.
As I get older, I worry more about the standard of husbandry in farming – in some farms there seem to be some sliding of standards of cleanliness in crops. Most of the crops I see as I travel around the country have, what I learned as a student to be described as “clean bottoms”, leaving an almost weed free stubble at harvest. During my vacations as a student at Reading, more years ago than I care to mention, I was lucky enough to serve under a farm manager of the name of Richard Noyce in Hampshire. I learned so much from him in terms of using the theory I had from Reading out in the field. Amongst other things, he knew how to use cultivators, chemicals and timing with the weather, to dramatically reduce the weed load on the following year’s crop. Many things are different, now, but we need food more than ever. Despite this worry, most crops I see are of a high husbandry standard and Britain does have consistently amongst the highest yields of any nation on earth. We probably do have the safest food in the world, too. Better tell the great British public.
Bill Butterworth, Land REsearch Ltd, 24 August 2017
Cultivations can be speeded up and with less energy if organic matters can be raised.
Closed loop 5 Saving in cultivation energy.
There is no doubt that soils which are hit with power (such as with a power harrow) to “force a tilth” suffer loss of organic matter and that, in turn, next season, will demand more power. In field trials recorded by Land Research, a heavy land farm using the mouldboard plough, power harrow, harrow and drill, was measured by tractor hours and number of furrows on the plough. The fields were fed with compost for 6 years and the ploughing finished earlier even when the tractor carried one more furrow. The power harrow was dropped completely. The increased organic matter resulted in an average saving in total cultivation time including sowing of over 60 %. Yields went up and were more consistent, year on year.
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