Farmer Focus Arable: Establishment methods are flexible for Bill Davey

Despite continuing dry weather, Canterbury on the whole looks green. As much as farmers would like to see drought-breaking rain, it is good to be able to harvest crops such as forage maize without damaging the soil structure.

We’re drilled up for the time being with Claire wheat, sown at 80kg/ha and contracted at £150/t, just emerging after maize.

Cultivation-wise we just ripped the stubble and gave it two passes with a flexitine before rolling and drilling. The seed-bed doesn’t look very pretty but the surface trash will prevent wind blow.

I have no preferred method of establishment and use whatever implements I consider suitable on the day. It appears fashionable to avoid the plough nowadays, for whatever reason, but to me it will always have a place here. To destroy a two-year grass sward and establish a cereal without ploughing on this fine silt to me just doesn’t make sense. Grass grub, slugs and other soil-borne nasties take full advantage of the open seed-bed even after rolling; you’re on the back foot from the start.

One tool that does impress me is our recently-acquired He-Va subtiller. Rape drilled onto rolling after the He-Va looks magnificent with no signs of compaction whatsoever, and far ahead of direct-drilled rape plants which appear stunted.

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