Direct Drilling case study: Hugh Ritchie

Case study: Hugh Ritchie (contractor)

Area: Ysbyty Ifan, North Wales

Drill used: Aitchison seedmatic

swedesWhen did you start direct drilling?

Seven years ago

What prompted you to start direct drilling?

Trouble with weed control and establishing swedes in ploughed up grassland. Repeated ploughing led to brassica weeds, such as charlock becoming hard to kill, while the use of trifluralin could cause problems with crop safety.

So we started spraying the grassland off with glyphosate and direct drilling the swedes on the same day. By the time the grass had started to chlorinate and die off, the swedes are up and growing strongly.

What have been the biggest benefits from direct drilling? The big benefits have been weed suppression, particularly between the rows, where the soil hasn’t been disturbed and the dieing-off grass has smothered any weed germination.

Timeliness is another advantage. It has allowed the contractor to drill in conditions you wouldn’t be able to if the land was tilled.

What have been the biggest issues you’ve faced since starting, and how have you dealt with them?

You need friable soil for it to work effectively. If the soil is too moist and plastic, it closes around the seed and stops it germinating.

What are the keys to making direct drilling work?

• Attention to detail

• Soil pH has to be right for brassicas

• Apply P&K before you start based on what the crop needs

• Friable soil

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