Farmer Focus: Will Howe is considering direct drilling

What do we actually know about farming? A university education and years of experience (not as many as most of the farming community, though), yet still what you expect rarely comes to fruition.

Claire winter wheat, which I had decided to drop from my rotation due to consistently poor quality, has this year made the quality spec with ease while maintaining its yield.

Having worked rape stubbles when they were a little moist, hoping to allow enough time for the weather to do the work, I am now left with solid masses that are proving somewhat stubborn to break down – somewhat like the Australian one-day batting line up, with no rain on the horizon to help.

Chasing the clods around and the apparent success of the “direct-drilled” rape got me thinking why every year I mix the current tilth with lower soils, only to invest time, diesel and sanity into knocking it down again. This winter’s project is to investigate direct drilling further, but whether I am brave enough to take the step is debatable.

I have started making notes on how systems performed during the summer to revisit them later in the year. I find if I don’t write it down in the heat of the moment, by the time I review harvest, the rose-tinted spectacles come out and you think: “Well, we managed OK.”

The main observation is the compaction caused by the combine, both surface and at deeper levels. Serious thought will be given as to whether wider tyres, tracks or dual wheels will help ease the foot print the most efficiently. This could be critical if I become a direct driller.

As drilling draws to a close, the next thing to concentrate on is getting a well earned holiday booked. Although taking a six-month-old baby on a plane may not be the most relaxing of pastimes, it will certainly beat being welded to a tractor seat.

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