Working 400ha (1000 acres) of combinable crops on a mixture of light to medium soils around their base near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, farming brothers Paul and David Metheringham have opted to stay committed to the plough.
“We’ve tried min-till cultivations without success – it just doesn’t suit our lighter soils,” says Paul Metheringham.
“We prefer to stick with what works for us – the plough.”
Far from being an expensive process of multiple passes, the brothers operate a two-pass system.
After ploughing to a depth of 20cm (8in) for cereals and up to 30cm (12in) for beet, drilling takes place with a 3m power-harrow/drill combination.
The two passes offer good weed management and the potential to create a weatherproof seedbed if needed.
“We aim for complete trash burial, which has become more important for us now that we’re leaving much longer stubbles to get combine output as high as we can,” says Paul Metheringham.
“On our land, the power-harrow does more of a levelling and firming job rather than clod-breaking so we can get outputs of up to 40 acres/day,” he says.
“Our costs work out at about 15/acre for each pass.”
The farm’s latest plough – a Gregoire Besson five-furrow fully-mounted reversible – brings hydraulically adjustable furrow widths to the mix, which has given the potential to double the farm’s ploughing capacity compared to the Lemken 35cm (14in) fixed-furrow reversible previously used.
Mr Metheringham says he can open up the furrow widths from 30-50cm (12-20in), without affecting ploughing quality, while a little more power – a 160hp JD6920s has replaced a 135hp JD6820 as the main cultivations tractor – helps to cover the ground quicker.
“We can tweak furrow widths from the cab and adapt the plough to suit trash, stubbles and soil conditions,” says David Metheringham.
“Where we could just manage 20 acres/day, we now have the ability to cover up to 40 acres/day.”
“The Besson plough offers generous clearance around the land wheel and legs, so it deals with long stubbles and trash quite easily,” he says.
“I’m very pleased with the quality of finish and the cleanliness of seedbed we achieve by ploughing.”
Mr Metheringham says that a six-furrow plough was considered but quickly dismissed, as a more powerful and heavier tractor would have been required.
“We didn’t want to find ourselves with a high-horsepower tractor that couldn’t be used sensibly for other tasks,” he says.
“We needed to maintain a flexible, all-round approach and now that we have more ploughing output, we could also do with a 4m drill.”
Ploughing is carried out in combination with a Lemken furrow press, which is currently awaiting additional rings to enable it to match the increased working width of the variable-width plough.
“While a cultivator-based min-till system might offer more output and perhaps slightly lower costs, the benefits we gain from ploughing far outweigh the disadvantages,” says David Metheringham.