Min-till offers wider benefits

MINIMUM TILLAGE systems could help growers comply with environmental regulations as well as cutting establishment costs, say experts.

Min-till practices have many benefits, including reducing water runoff and sediment loss and increasing soil organic matter, which provides a Carbon sink, said Vic Jordan from the Soil Management Initiative.

“Governments are starting to recognise these benefits and pay something for them. The impact on environmental quality is the way governments and legislators are moving when it comes to the ways we produce our food,” he said.

Soil Management Plans will be based on these “conservation agriculture” principles, he added.

Increasingly tight margins mean many growers are looking at min-till systems to cut costs out of the rotation, said Masstock agronomist Andrew Richards.

This view was shared by Jim Bullock, who farms 330ha near Malvern, Worcs.

Establishment time for 300ha of crops (including wheat, oilseed rape and beans) has been cut from 750 to 300hrs by moving from a plough based to min-till system, he said.

Managing crop residues, looking after soil structure and controlling weeds are the three key factors to focus on when making min-till systems work, he said.

“It is very important to carefully analyse grass weed pressure under min till,” agreed Mr Richards.

“Growers need to consider weed dormancy, grass weed shed in the previous crop and understand/ map exactly what weeds you‘ve got.”