8 March 2002

Rotary drilling reduces costs

USING a Swiss designed rotary band maize drilling system can reduce establishment costs by £75/ha (£30/acre) and cut soil erosion, reported independent consultant John Morgan to the conference following a two-day MGA delegation to the Swiss Federal Research Station.

"The aim of the system is to establish maize in cultivated strips. This leaves uncultivated land between rows to maintain soil structure, improve field working conditions and cut soil erosion," he said.

The machine enables up to nine operations to be completed in one pass, including spraying, fertiliser applications, cultivation, drilling and rolling. One Swiss contractor charges £173/ha (£70/acre) for this method compared with £248/ha (£100/acre) for conventional establishment, said Mr Morgan.

"In a good year, maize yields are about 10% lower in the no plough system than conventional crops, while trials found only a 3% reduction. Yield penalties can be three times higher on heavier soils."

Some producers who have adopted the no plough system have seen soil organic content increase by 10%. In addition, this system has been included in one government scheme to reduce water pollution in lakes, he said.