Direct drilling plans changed after summer floods for Worcestershire arable farmer

Summer flooding stopped Worcestershire direct drilling guru Jim Bullock from implementing many of his plans for the autumn, farmers and advisers heard at a Soil Management Initiative workshop in Leicestershire.

Ideally he would like to establish oilseed rape and beans using a sub-soiler with the following wheat using a Kuhn SD4000 direct drill. “The break crops create the right soil structure.”

But the floods meant it was impossible, particularly with earlier harvested crops, to avoid creating terrible ruts. “There was no chance of direct drilling – we were into a min-till, or more like a maxi-till situation to level the ruts.”

The mat of wet straw, particularly after oats, was also troublesome although some of the wheat straw had been removed. His plan of leaving longer stubble to help combat problems with trash also had to be abandoned.

The idea had been that longer stubble would reduce the amount of material going through the combine, reducing fuel costs, and would help spread what was chopped more evenly, he explained. “Standing stubble also doesn’t break down so quickly so there is less tie-up of nitrogen, and provides soil cover to prevent erosion.”

Jim Bullock large

Instead, any straw left was not touched until the end of August, then the land was sprayed off with glyphosate to take out any weeds. “We harrowed it to spread the straw around and also to even out the land drying – there were some very wet areas. It also disturbed the slugs.”

Fields were then treated on a case-by-case basis using a sub-soiler to a depth of about 200-250mm to lift out the wheel tracks, and run over with a Vaderstad Carrier in early September. Another glyphosate spray to take out volunteers followed, before finally being drilled in late September or early October with the Kuhn drill.

The results had been pretty good. “We were lucky the autumn weather came on side,” he admits.

The floods had also put paid to another plan of leaving longer stubble to help combat problems with trash, he added.

The idea had been that longer stubble would reduce the amount of material going through the combine, reducing fuel costs, and would help spread what was chopped by the combine more evenly, he explained. “Standing stubble also doesn’t break down so quickly so there is less tie-up of nitrogen, and provides soil cover to prevent erosion.”




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