Conventional, plough-based cultivations certainly have a place but with a high time and energy cost.
When not to direct drill? Some years, it is wet but the harvest still has to be got in and the result is ruts. They may have to be cultivated out but it is as well to remember that direct drilled soils are less likely to rut because of the resilience of organic matter and a “blocky” structure which distorts less under load, even when wet. Also, some soils naturally form pans which may need to be cultivated out. Last reason is to bury weed seeds – but try not to plough them up next year. Rotational cultivations may be the answer with a progression to long term direct drilling.
Persist with direct drilling next year wherever possible to help build up organic matter. (Actually it is more a question of avoiding the oxidation of organic matter from conventional cultivations which could be 35% pa while direct drilling will be as little as 10% or less.)
Cuttings from HDD (through chalk can be used mas agricultural lime, saving many tonne-truck miles.
An “environmental commission-like-body” is needed to replace the role of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice in enforcing environmental law post-Brexit, says Environment Secretary Michael Gove. I have recently sent a few hundred tonnes of excavated chalk to landfill because the circumstances did not fit the current interpretation of the regulations. We really do not need any more regulators. Maybe Brexit is a real opportunity to re-structure the regulation we have got to raise productivity within a framework of environmental care. We could use CL:AIRE. Look it up. Credit to DEFRA.
Bill Butterworth, Land research Ltd, 29 November 17
Look carefully! The cardboard replica of the Houses of Parliament is backed up by an enormous pile of firewood. Moments after this picture was taken, the whole lot went up in fire and smoke.
Put on one side for a moment the shenanigans of MPs in the Palace of Westminster and elsewhere. Frankly, apart from a bad example to our kids, they are largely irrelevant. There is more reason to ask why the productivity of the UK lags so far behind other nations. The mechanics of Westminster, however, the Civil Service, is so hell-bent on not making mistakes that their not-science-based development of more and more regulations stifles innovation and entrepreneurial activity. We have lost the art of safe enabling. It is not the Palace of Westminster we need to burn, it is all the regulations and start again with an objective of enough, and only enough,regulation to innovate and produce – safely.
Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd 5 November 2017
A normal pond? Not quire – note the white colouration of the water, This is spent drilling fluid from drilling through chalk to bring cables off the North Sea wind farms.
The attached below link is to the Dutch drilling company, VSH website. The pictures (scroll down a bit) are of the drilling operation bringing cables off the North Sea wind farms to the site at Holt in North Norfolk. This brings renewable energy to the UK consumers. What Land Research does is to take the cuttings and spent fluids from such operations and re-use them, usually on agricultural land to replace the 2.5 million tonnes of top soil which the UK loses by wind and rain erosion, down into the sea, every year. Renewable energy with zero waste from such construction operations.
Dom Arnold’s JCB Fastrack and 360 excavator on its way to assist in laying cables from the North Sea wind farms under farmland in Norfolk to the National Grid to supply the economicm life of the UK.
Farming is not just food production, it is the back-bone of the economic life of the UK. It is not just the food chain which is integrated with so much of UK industry, it is the land itself.
The land is what the whole lot stands on, even the City of London and all its financial activity. It is the land across which we travel and which carries the life blood of economic activity. It is the land across which the water, electricity and gas are channelled to carry energy to the people and their businesses.
Back in the late 1980’s, I was advising ICI Plant Protection, as was, about direct drilling and their translocated, green-leaf killer, Gramoxone. We ran a competition called “The Bottom Line” and the prize was a Moore Unidrill (which, incidentally, is still a brilliantly designed drill). The challenge put to 50 farmers was to take one field and cut the number of passes compared with the rest of the farm just by one pass. We made a comparison of the reduced pass field with a neighbouring field. The farmer chose the passes and how they cut down on energy input. We calculated yield based on ears per sq m and calculated MOEC – Margin Over Establishment Costs (pass costs calculated from John Nix’s Pocket Book – the farm management “bible” of the time). The average improvement of MOEC of the reduced pass fields was 11% and the winner showed a commendable 19%. A very interesting observation from some of the farms was that when the number of passes on one field was cut, the yield on other fields went up. Timeliness in cultivations was vital then and, it will be progressively important as global warming advances as evidenced by this last twelve months of oscillating weather.
The Wednesday sustainability blog – Bill Butterworth –
The original patent on the Moore direct drill was really clever – the depth of placement of seed remained the same regardless of the level of seed in the hopper. Getting the crop in at the right time and with even depth and moisture round the seed is key to rapid, even establishment and yield.
Do you heat your home by gas? How long would it take to change your house and several million others to renewable electricity – if we had it? (Which we don’t.)
Why is shale gas BEO (Best Environmental Option) and an environmental necessity in the UK? There is a stark choice looming. Solar and wind turbine farms do not produce gas. Around two thirds/ three quarters of UK homes are heated by gas. Just suppose we had the renewable energy capability which was also sustainable (you get more out then you put in), which we do not have yet, but even if we did, how long would it take to change all those domestic properties to renewable and sustainable electricity? Never mind the cost (which would be substantial), how long would it take to change several million households? Without any doubt, any doubt whatsoever, several generations.
A significant proportion of our gas is imported. No other country in the world has technology as good as the UK drilling industry. No other country in the world is as well regulated and inspected as the UK. There are British drilling fluids you can drink. (Not too much at once – you would get constipated but not poisoned.) Logically, if we have a higher degree of environmental friendliness, have our shale gas not someone else’s. Shale gas is a clean burn “transition fuel” which will buy us the time and give us the cash to develop sustainable renewable energy – provided we do not squander the cash on something else. (Not to mention North Sea oil?) Keeping jobs here is a bonus and not an insignificant one.