22 June 2001

Long-term lo-till success

RESULTS of a long-term tillage trial demonstrated at Les Culturales attracted plenty of interest.

After 30 years of reduced tillage, organic matter in the calcareous clay-loam soil at Boigneville has risen and yields are at least maintained.

But adopting such systems will not necessarily guarantee better returns, stresses soil and tillage specialist Jerome Labreuche. "I have seen farmers spend more on lo-till than on ploughing," he warns.

Keeping cultivation passes to a minimum, and spreading new equipment over an adequate area is essential. "Smaller farms must work together."

Increased organic matter under the reduced tillage systems, notably in the top 10cm (4in), helped the Boigneville soil stand up to last winters weather.

"After sowing the rain has re-compacted this ploughed land. You can see there are fewer roots in the top-soil and it has capped. It has not done that in direct-drill or surface tillage."

For wheat the yield impact will be minimal, he believes, but for a spring-sown crop the surface compaction would cause problems. &#42