Tom SewellTom Sewell. © Tim Scrivener

Adopting a no-till system for establishing crops is not without its pitfalls, but one Kent grower has four tips to help achieve direct-drilling success.

Having gone head first into no-till this season, Tom Sewell is very happy with the results and optimistic about the success of his system for healthy soils and healthy crops in the future.

He also believes the system will make his arable business more efficient and cost-effective, which is crucial through tough times when grain prices are depressed.

Tom’s four no-till rules:

  1. Chop and retain straw – You must give back what you take away. If you have to remove straw for whatever reason, ensure it is going back as muck or other sources of organic matter.
  2. Grow cover crops – You need something growing year round. They also help retain moisture, break compaction and increase organic matter.
  3. Implement a diverse rotation – Profitability will be the key consideration, but think about grass and nitrogen-fixing break crops to improve soils.
  4. Buy an ultra-low-disturbance drill – The drill has to have a single disc and move as little soil as possible. I chose the Cross-slot system, but others are available.

Read more on how Mr Sewell – alongside his agronomist and soil adviser – are implementing the no-till system on his 405ha arable operation just south west of Maidstone.