Staff Member
BASE UK Member
I am a managing partner on an all combinable crops farm based near Lichfield, Staffordshire. Crops grown include winter wheat, winter rape, winter and spring beans, spring oats and spring linseed.

For many years we have always sought to grow crops in a sustainable way both financially and environmentally. The farm has run a min-til system for the past 16 years which after a steady evolution was running a 6m simba solo ‘R’ one pass cultivator and Vaderstad Rapid drill based around 609hp rubber tracked Challenger MT875c and 330 hp JD 8530 wheeled tractors. This 2 pass min-till establishment system had made significant financial and time savings over more traditional plough based systems however a long held interest and a few past experiments with direct drilling has always made us feel there was a better way still.

Rising fuel prices focus the mind when running a min-til system so dependent upon vast horsepower and heavy tractors damage the soil, limiting yields and necessitating costly repair. Direct drilling follows mother natures lead, it greatly simplifies the process of crop establishment into a simple, low power requirement single pass operation that aims to disturb the soil as little as possible allowing organisms and biology within the soil to thrive ultimately creating a better growing environment and in turn give soil the ability to sustain and repair itself, all of which hopefully lead to better yields and savings of input costs.

Visiting and speaking to a few forward thinking farmers around the world soon proved to us that with good enough management direct drilling could offer the time and financial savings we were looking at whilst improving our crops and most importantly our soils, hopefully yields and farming in a much more sustainable way with a significantly lower impact on the environment

So in summer 2012 the role of the Challanger and JD 8530 tractors with a combined power output of 930hp, the 6m solo and 6m Vaderstad seed drill was replaced by a simple 160hp tractor and a 4m used JD 750a drill !

Of all the years to make such a change 2012 could hardly have been worse ! The highest rainfall for 100 years saw a difficult harvest followed by an even harder crop establishment period, It is fair to say that regardless of establishment system conditions have been extreme and in the case of many farms impossible, even where farmers have got crops planted an almost “biblical” plague of slugs has seen many arable crops severely damaged or lost completely.

Despite these extremes we have managed so far to stick mostly to our plan, avoided soil damage and got crops in and growing. I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say on this forum and maybe learn a little from our experience so far and share your comments, thoughts and experience with us


Staff Member
BASE UK Member
Hi Clive, thanks for your presentation.
I thought you were running a Dale drill, did I miss something ?

What is your type of soil ?
I ran a used 9m Dale eco-drill alongside the 750a for a season as at the time I felt there were situations where a tine would be a better option than a disc, both were good drills and grew good crops but the comparison for one season made me realise there was little that I couldn't do with the disc especially if I made a few tweaks to rotation but there was things that a tine wasn't able to do like drill into thick covers for example and minimise disturbance anything like as well as a disc drill can

The move to zero-till also meant I didn't need anything like the drill width I had got used to for our area due to time saved cultivating and bigger split between spring and autumn cropping

I had the opportunity to sell the Dale for what I paid for it so I decided to let it go and put my faith 100% in the 750 (this was 2 years ago and so far so good !) it was the right decision and put a fair bit of capital back in the pot

Our soils are quite light, sandy and medium loams - boys land really but with less than ideal drainage and a few bits of heavier stuff here and there

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SRUC tops UK list for SME consulting income

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Written by John Swire

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) provides more business value to SMEs than any other higher education institution in the UK.

This is according to a new study by Universities UK that found – over a four-year period – that SRUC generated more than £57.5 million of income through its consultancy and Veterinary Services.

SRUC was ranked above the University of Liverpool (£54m) and the Royal Veterinary College (£31.5m), with the University of Edinburgh (£16.5m) and the University of St Andrews (£12.5m) the only two other Scottish entries in the top ten.

In terms of the UK, Scotland finished above the North West (£83.5m) and London (£76.1m), with SRUC responsible for...