Tillage host farm on why flexibility drives kit choices

This year’s Tillage Live event is hosted by Rainthorpe Farms in Reasby, Lincolnshire. If the name sounds familiar, it is because they are second-time hosts and some Quadtrac enthusiasts may know the name from a Guinness World’s Record.

Farmer Helen Clarke, nee Rainthorpe, organised the 2012’s Case Quadtrac Guinness World Records attempt in memory of her father John and managed to mobilise 50 of the nation’s Quadtracs, smashing the world record for the number of tractors cultivating in one field.

This year they host Tillage Live on a 64ha block of lighter sand land neighbouring Wickenby aerodrome, Langworth.

Although not too challenging in the horsepower department this should stand up well if the weather gets soggy, unlike some of the farm’s stiffer clays.

Andy Worthington and Helen Clarke

Andy Worthington and Helen Clarke © James Andrews

“We’ve got a huge mix of soil types here from heavy clay to limestone brash and blow-away sand,” says Mrs Clarke. “That means we have to be really flexible in the way we farm and each block gets treated individually.”

See also: Video – Quadtrac Guinness world record

To help with that process, the farm’s soils were zone-mapped by Soyl back in 2003 and since then most inputs have been applied variably. That includes seed, all fertiliser and lime, which is applied by a local contractor. 

Mrs Clarke produces most of the farm’s application maps through Soyl’s website, which are then uploaded to each machine. “It was a significant investment at the time, but it has been a really worthwhile one,” she says.

“Even the lime that’s being applied at the moment varies from virtually nothing in some areas to more than 11t/ha, so it’s a big saving not doing a blanket rate.”

Cultivation regime

The farm’s soil variation has also meant Mrs Rainthorpe has stuck with a fairly flexible cultivation regime.

This centres around a 4.5m Kverneland CTS Evo Stubble Finisher, which is used to work up cereal seed-beds and plant some of the farm’s oilseed rape with a bolt-on Stocks seeder unit.

But the fleet also includes a TWB Terminator with Horstine Twin Air seeder, a Vaderstad Rexius Twin and a 12-furrow Kverneland plough.

Over recent years the farm’s persistent blackgrass has prompted an increase in the amount of ploughing that takes place.

Now all spring bean and pea ground is winter ploughed as well as some of the heavier ground going into wheat. This takes the pressure off in the spring and allows the frost to do some of the cultivation work for them.

The spring barley ground – apart from some of the very lightest – is also cultivated with the CTS in the autumn. Last year this included the farm’s worst blackgrass field, which was hit hard with grassweed-busting measures.

This started with spraying off the stubble in early autumn after some of the blackgrass had germinated. Then it was cultivated and sprayed off again in November. Finally, it had another dose of glyphosate before the crop was drilled, says operations manager Andy Worthington.

“That was a bit of an extreme case, but it really has made a difference and the field is so much cleaner than it was last season.”

TWB Terminator

The TWB Terminator is the newest addition to the cultivation fleet and was bought in this season to replace an ageing Spaldings Flatlift.

This was picked partly due to the fact in came in cheaper than many of its rivals, but also because a decent second-hand model came up for sale locally. It saps a lot less power than the Flatlift, too, which means it can be pulled comfortably by the farm’s 400hp Challenger 775E.

As well as handling some of the primary cultivation work and loosening tramlines, the Terminator will spend a good bit of its time establishing oilseed rape. For this task it will be fitted with a set of lower-disturbance legs.

The Rexius Twin is the final part of the puzzle and is used for knocking down plough furrows and levelling off the seed-bed behind the CTS. It’s been on the farm for years and is just being treated to a new set of rings.

Vaderstad Rexius Twin refurbished

Vaderstad Rexius Twin refurbished © James Andrews

Drilling

Varied as the cultivation regime is, almost all of the farm’s cereal drilling is carried out with a trusty 8m Horsch sprinter.

This has been on the farm for almost a decade and has kept its place because of its versatility, says Mr Worthington.

“It’s done everything we’ve asked of it – it deals really well with trash, works well in most soils and keeps going in sticky conditions.”

Dutch Industries coulters

This year it was also treated to a set of Dutch Industries coulters instead of the original Duets, which were a bit too power hungry.

These were bolted on this spring and their first outing was drilling spring beans. They made the drill considerably easier to pull, but the smaller-diameter seed tubes frequently blocked. This meant the driver had to constantly hop on and off the seat to free them up.

However, Mr Worthington plans to correct the problem by modifying the seed tubes this winter.  “Once we’ve got that sorted I think they’ll have been a good investment.”

Reduced horsepower

One benefit of the farm’s spring cropping increase and later autumn wheat drilling is that it’s spread the workload.

As well as putting less pressure on the staff this has meant they’ve been able to reduce their horsepower requirement, dropping from a brace of Case Quadtracs to just one.

Case Quadtrac

The current 580 model arrived on the farm in 2016 and acts as the sole prime mover. This means its time is split between pulling the 12-furrow Kverneland “wagon plough” and the 4.5m Kverneland CTS.

The other Quadtrac was replaced by a Challenger 775E, which pulls the 3.25m TWB Terminator and 8m Horsch Sprinter drill.

Farm facts

Rainthorpe Farms, Reasby, Lincolnshire

  • Farmed area: 1,300ha
  • Cropping Feed wheat, oilseed rape, spring barley and spring beans, plus some ground rented out for vining peas and sugarbeet
  • Staff Four full-time employees

Cropping

Despite the spring cropping increase, the farm’s primary earners are still feed wheat and oilseed rape.

This autumn the farm is due to be planted with 520ha of wheat, which will be split between Group 4 hard varieties such as Crispin and Shabras and some soft Group 3s such as Barrel and Zulu.

As with last year, the drilling date will be pushed back to mid-October at the earliest to help keep blackgrass on the back foot.

Oilseed rape, meanwhile, will be split between 156ha of HEAR, 76ha of HOLL and 86ha of double zero varieties, which have low levels of both erucic acid and glucosinolates.

Most of the crop will be planted from mid-August using a Horstine Twin Air seeder on the TWB Terminator. This is set up to sow the oilseed rape in bands ahead of the rear packer and trickle slug pellets on at the rear.

A small area will also be planted with the Kverneland CTS and stocks seeder unit, with the slug pellets being applied via an applicator on the back of a 16m set of Dalbo rolls.

To date, the farm hasn’t suffered too badly from flea beetle, apart from one late-drilled field where the weather closed in before they could roll. However, that only took out some small patches.

The bulk of the spring cropping will be barley, which has crept up year-on-year to an area of about 230ha.

A large chunk of this will be Propino, but they’re also trying small areas of Planet and a variety called Explorer that’s being grown under contract for Budweiser.

That leaves 95ha of spring beans and about 130ha of let ground, which will be split between vining peas and sugarbeet.

Frontline machinery

  • Combine New Holland CR9.90 with 12.5m header
  • Tractors Case-IH Quadtrac 580, Challenger 775E, Case-IH Puma 130 and 180, Deutz-Fahr 620 TTV
  • Sprayer Sands Vision 4,000 with 32m booms
  • Fertiliser spreader Kuhn Axis 50.2 HEMC W
  • Drills 8m Horsch Sprinter, Horstine Twin Air seeder
  • Cultivation kit 4.5m Kverneland CTS Evo, 3.25m TWB Terminator, 8.3m Vaderstad Rexius Twin, 12-furrow Kverneland plough
  • Telehanders JCB 541-70 and TM300

Quadtrac world record facts

  • Date: 28 July 2012
  • Organiser: Helen Rainthorpe (now Clarke)
  • Venue: Hemswell Cliff, Lincolnshire
  • Quadtracs taking part: 50
  • Time worked: 7min and 47s
  • Total horsepower 25,000
  • Combined weight: 1,250t
  • Furthest travelled machine Ellon, Aberdeen to Lincolnshire (433 miles)