Direct drilling case study: Jon Harley


Farm name: Roundwood Estate, Micheldever, Hampshire

Farm size: 380ha of combinable crops

Area of each crop grown on farm: 160ha oilseed rape, 16ha linseed, 24ha spring oats, 40ha winter barley, 120ha spring barley, 120ha winter wheat

Typical rotation: Break crop, wheat, spring barley, spring barley

Soil type(s): Light Andover series with clay caps

Drill used: John Dale zero till drill

jon harleyWhen did you start direct drilling?

Four years ago

What prompted you to start direct drilling?

A natural progression from min-tilling.

What have been the biggest benefits from direct drilling?

Timeliness, and saving of labour and fuel.

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

The first year we left the stubble quite long and didn’t get a very good spread of a large amount of straw, which meant it didn’t flow through the drill well. With a long stubble we’ve found that instead of the tine going through the stubble, it can pull it out, but that doesn’t happen if the stubble is cut shorter. We sometimes use a Knight triple press to help spread straw more evenly if needed, and to help with slug control.

Have you experienced any yield drop while direct drilling?

No. If anything, a slight yield increase.

What are the keys to making direct drilling work?

* Short stubble length and well chopped and spread straw

* Using flotation tyres and duel-wheels for field operations to maintain a good soil structure

* Spring crops in the rotation

* Not being afraid to use a light cultivation to encourage a stale seed-bed, or control of slugs if it is thought necessary

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