OXFORDSHIRE FARMER John Gee has little time for disc-based cultivation systems. Expensive to run, ineffective in trash and not much use in wet conditions are how he views any form of disc.
This goes some way to explaining his current cultivations armoury — a Lemken tined cultivator, Triple K spring-tines for levelling and mixing and an Accord Tine Seeder pneumatic drill.
The unit has replaced a succession of cultivator drills including Carrier and IH machines.
“A good set of widely spaced tines, combined with a brisk forward speed is all that anyone should need to make a seed-bed,” says Mr Gee.
“With surface trash, it is far better to stir and boil the soil rather than try and slice it open.”
At the 283ha (699-acre) Denmans Farm, Farmoor in Oxfordshire, Mr Gee has pursued a no-nonsense cultivations policy for many years. And it starts with tined cultivators.
“We prepare 80% of our seed-beds using a 3m Lemken tined cultivator,” he says. “
It’s fast, has a good stagger to deal with surface trash and can give excellent results in just two passes.
“We then follow with the drill which, for the last two seasons, has been a 4m Accord Tine Seeder,” he adds.
“What we”ve got is not perfect, nor will it suit everyone, but we wouldn”t grow combinable crops any other way.”
And other than using a light press, Mr Gee also avoids rolling. “Weather will push the seed-bed down through the autumn,” he says.
“And I believe leaving it open protects young seedlings from excessive wind chill.”
Mr Gee believes that this simplistic approach has taken much of the expense out of crop establishment. Soil types at Denmans Farm range from sandy loams to clay. Cropping is largely first wheat with yields averaging 8.5t/ha, supported by barley, oilseed rape and beans.
“We have a few wearing parts to replace, but hard-facing the cultivator points means we can get a season”s use out of the Lemken”s points before we need to reface,” he says.
“As the drill works only the top 2in, it doesn”t suffer from the same level of wear.”
Outputs are dictated by tractor power. A 145hp MF8120 notches up a comfortable 16ha (40 acres) each day with the 3m cultivator, while a 100hp MF3085 achieves a daily output of 24ha (60 acres) with the 4m drill.
“The only problem we can have is when the combine has to stop, which leaves a dense mat of chopped straw on the ground. You have to be ready to tweak the working depth of the cultivator accordingly.”
Mr Gee believes he has an almost weather-proof cultivation system. “Where discs can smear and pack, tines simply stir everything about,” he adds.
That said, the Gees still reach for a plough and a power harrow when circumstances dictate. “My son likes to plough and so does a small acreage each year, mostly to keep his skills polished,” he says.
“And if we get a very knobbly seed-bed, we sometimes run the power harrow through, but very fast and shallow, just to smash the clods.
“You have to be prepared to adapt to different seasons, but in the main, tined cultivation and drilling equipment is the way forward for us.”