Direct drilling case study: Andrew Manfield


Farm name: Hessleskew, Sancton, York

Farm size: 200 ha

Cropping: 80ha winter wheat, 10 ha winter barley, 30ha spring barley, 20ha vining peas, 20ha OSR, 40ha potatoes

Rotation: Potatoes, wheat, barley, OSR, wheat, vining peas, wheat, barley

Soil type: Calcareous loam (high stone content)

Drill: Reconditioned Amazone Primera and a Dutzi

Start: 2008

manfield drill


What prompted you to start direct drilling?

The cost and time required to do deep draft work on land with high stone content – a move confirmed by recent quote of £1,700 for new main drive tyre on a tractor. Heavy draft work should be avoided where possible.

What have been the biggest benefits from direct drilling?

Reduced cultivation costs and potential for improved timeliness in a busy season with potatoes taking priority

Have you experienced any yield drop while direct drilling?

Yields have been all over the place regardless of cultivation regime in the past three years due to odd weather patterns. Oilseed rape yields have been good, wheat yields have been down on the long term average, but that may be due to a combination of other factors.

What are the keys to making direct drilling work?

I am a big fan of controlled traffic regimes and would not attempt direct drilling without some kind of traffic control unless I was very sure that my soil type would sustain some traffic even when conditions are not ideal.

Direct drilling does not mean, to me, that the combine leaves the field and only the drill is then allowed to follow it. Some kind of raking or shallow surface scratching/levelling will be required in some fields in some years in order to redistribute residue and ensure good slug control without being too reliant on pellets.

A rotation is important for grass weed control – direct drilled spring barley has worked very well for us. Winter crops need to be established early as less N is being mineralised by tillage and the ground may not heat up so fast if white crop residue is reflecting sunlight – consider obtaining over-wintered seed for some crops to ensure a prompt start to establishment in the autumn.

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