Farmers Weekly Awards 2020: Farm Innovator of the Year

Tim Parton, Brewood Park Farm, West Midlands

Tim Parton is a regenerative agriculture pioneer whose main aim is to get his soils working again and harness biology within his cropping system.  

As part of this journey, he is slashing his chemical inputs. With fertiliser, he is using microbes to fix nitrogen from the air and also release phosphorus already bound up in soils.

To achieve this, he wanted a direct drill that could place these microbes next to the seed, as well as drill two crops at the same time accurately.

However, there were no off-the-shelf drills on the market that could do this. Undeterred, he went about modifying a John Deere 750 direct drill with an engineer.

The first requirement on his list was to place microbes, which he brews himself in a big tank, with the seed.

His innovative mix includes nitrogen-fixing and phosphorus-releasing bacteria. An application system pipes the exact amount of liquid next to the seed, where it is needed.

Next on his list was the ability to drill the crop along with a companion crop at the same time, without seed levelling off in the tank.

He achieved this by adding two further hoppers on the rear, allowing him to broadcast seed or feed it into the coulters to drill two different crops at the same time.

A third hopper was fitted so that he could also blow seed into the venturi, mixed with the main crop seed.

The heavily adapted drill is enabling Tim to slash fertiliser inputs (nitrogen and phosphorus). By getting his soils working again he is now applying 40kg/ha less nitrogen and getting better yields.

He is also making good use of companion cropping and undersowing OSR with clover.

Looking to the future, he hopes to reduce inputs further still and a lot of this progress would not have been possible without his heavily modified drill.

5 things that make Tim Parton 2020’s Farm Innovator of the Year

  1. Using microbes to fix nitrogen and unlock phosphorus already in soils
  2. Modified his direct drill to place his microbial brew next to seed
  3. Able to drill a companion crop in the same pass without seed
  4. Extra hoppers enable seed to be broadcast
  5. Seeing benefits of reduced inputs and companion cropping

Finalists

  • Peter Eccles, Saughland Farm, Midlothian
  • Rosa Linkens, Whitley Wood, Reading, Berkshire

Read about the finalists

Sponsor’s message

Co-opThe Farmers Weekly 2020 Farm Innovator of the Year is sponsored by Co-op.

“2020 demonstrated that we can never predict the challenges that lie ahead, but those who embrace innovation will be the ones best placed to navigate the unknown while helping to ensure the UK’s agricultural industry can look forward to a sustainable future.”
Caroline Mason, head of agriculture, Co-op

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