Farmer Focus: New set-up drills 500ha of wheat in 60 hours

All the winter wheat is drilled, rolled and sprayed, with some of the best seed-beds we have ever achieved, other than a couple of wet holes. I’m amazed considering the amount of rain we have had this summer.

First-drilled wheats are up and in row and, I’m pleased to say, with very little slug damage. I’m hoping this is partially due to oilseed rape being grown as a one-in-six-year rotation rather than the one-in-two-year rotation we were doing before.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

Drilling efficiency has been improved this autumn by replacing our 20-year-old drill filler with a new 10t model from Farmstar and Richard Western.

With both a bigger auger and tank, we have been able to fill the drill in less than five minutes, which isn’t bad considering we are transferring nearly 5t each time.

Add this to the already efficient output of the 12m Amazone Citan drill, we were able to drill more than 500ha of wheat in just under 60 hours.

As I’ve probably said before, most of the farm was grass historically and came into an arable rotation in the 1960s, with the use of steel track crawlers and discs. It has been in non-inversion tillage ever since.

It’s fair to say a lot of it has never been ploughed.

Three small fields have a significant blackgrass problem and my agronomist’s advice was to try to plough them.

Thanks to Roworth Brothers with its new Lemken plough, we were able to properly invert the soil, leaving all the blackgrass buried at 20cm deep. I have to say, it looks very impressive.

A  pass with the cultivator has levelled it, so hopefully after five months of wind and rain we will have a seed-bed.

With the drilling finished, it’s time to start thinking about the coming shooting season. A new dog joined the team earlier in the year – a red Labrador bitch called Barley.

Friends told me the reds are far more intelligent than the other colours. Great, just what I need, another clever dog to show me up again.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.