Is ploughing bad ?

Two Tone

Member
Mixed Farmer
I have converted from a plough based system to Direct drilling, having been a sworn advocate of it.
I cannot find any downsides of DD, including yield.
I did it purely for financial reasons.

I use a Weaving GD drill. This is what I have found:

One 8th of the amount of fuel used to establish a crop - win.
Reduction of 75% in time to establish a crop - win.
Reduction in Blackgrass due to not disturbing and waking up its seed between the rows - win.
Resulting in 50% of the pre-em herbicide usage - win.
No extra usage of Glyphosate needed - win.
Yields as good, often better than ploughed land - win.

Environmental:
I can drill early again, by the end of September when ALL soil conditions are ideal - win.
87.5% reduction in CO2 to establish my crops - win
IRO 2-3 tonnes per acre reduction of CO2 released from cultivated soils as bacteria breaks down OM - win.
I no longer need to roll any land after the drill - win.
No problem with FYM application. Just spread on top and drill through it - win.
Massive increase in the earthworm population - win.


Ploughing is obviously necessary where root crops are grown. But for Combinable crop, not.
 

Spud

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
YO62
I have converted from a plough based system to Direct drilling, having been a sworn advocate of it.
I cannot find any downsides of DD, including yield.
I did it purely for financial reasons.

I use a Weaving GD drill. This is what I have found:

One 8th of the amount of fuel used to establish a crop - win.
Reduction of 75% in time to establish a crop - win.
Reduction in Blackgrass due to not disturbing and waking up its seed between the rows - win.
Resulting in 50% of the pre-em herbicide usage - win.
No extra usage of Glyphosate needed - win.
Yields as good, often better than ploughed land - win.

Environmental:
I can drill early again, by the end of September when ALL soil conditions are ideal - win.
87.5% reduction in CO2 to establish my crops - win
IRO 2-3 tonnes per acre reduction of CO2 released from cultivated soils as bacteria breaks down OM - win.
I no longer need to roll any land after the drill - win.
No problem with FYM application. Just spread on top and drill through it - win.
Massive increase in the earthworm population - win.


Ploughing is obviously necessary where root crops are grown. But for Combinable crop, not.
Ploughing not always necessary for root crops by any means, but carrots, potatoes, parsnips etc do demand some cultivation. Beet less so.
 

Humble Village Farmer

Member
BASE UK Member
I thought it was 3 tonnes per ha per year lost to the atmosphere from cultivated land. Obviously the deeper you go and the more you expose eg by total inversion, the more you lose.

Also a bit obvious, but soils with more carbon are going to lose more, for instance, I doubt you would lose as much from ploughing an acre of the Sahara as from an acre of permanent pasture in the west of England.

Undisturbed soils also fix more carbon, between 1 and 2 tonnes per ha per year, on top of what you would have lost if you cultivated it.
 
Ploughing is a tool. Used incorrectly it is a disaster. Used correctly it can work very well.

Planting crops in monoculture (and I'd include the bulk of this country's forage and herbage crops in that) is bad for the environment. Doesn't matter if you never ploughed or not. You are causing an impact on the environment in the process of producing food to sell. It's been this way since women first started planting seeds on the banks of the Euphrates 10,000 years ago.
 
Tine drill or if you want to spend some extra cash/can warrant it then stripper header and go straight in with a disc drill. Looks a complete mess but is very effective as you don’t have a Matt of chopped straw

Have you done this or seen it done effectively? I have always felt that chopping the straw was a waste of time from an agronomic and ecological point of view.
 

PSQ

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Scottish Borders
I thought it was 3 tonnes per ha per year lost to the atmosphere from cultivated land. Obviously the deeper you go and the more you expose eg by total inversion, the more you lose.

Also a bit obvious, but soils with more carbon are going to lose more, for instance, I doubt you would lose as much from ploughing an acre of the Sahara as from an acre of permanent pasture in the west of England.

Undisturbed soils also fix more carbon, between 1 and 2 tonnes per ha per year, on top of what you would have lost if you cultivated it.
Sorry, I'm not buying the claim that cultivated soils lose more CO2 per year than they produce in straw, and almost as much as they produce in grain. I'm calling 'bulls**t!' on that one.

This is my 26th season 'making the decisions' here, and I've seen soil OM levels go from a range measuring in the high 4's and low 5's%, to high 5's and low 6's%. We're not losing carbon, we're gaining. And given that theres just shy of 2000t of topsoil to the acre*, 1% is just short of 20t of OM added.
[* - bulk density 1600kg/m2, top soil worked to 30cm, mix of ploughing and non inversion, straw retained].

The difference between the plough based systems and the DD zealots is where you're measuring the OM. Plough based is mixing it through the plough layer, DD is measuring it to what? 2"? It's the same carbon, just that DD gets to call the higher surface concentration a 'miraculous' 5% rise :facepalm:
Still no comments from the DD guys about what it actually says in the KV report, that DD is worse than ploughing for soil base emissions. Here it is again:

Humus and Ploughing

The soil humus content needs to be preserved. When evaluating the impact on the humus content of different crop establishment systems, the results are clear: non tillage and reduced tillage techniques do not have any positive effect on humus establishment.

In more than 100 field studies conducted in Germany, analysing the entire soil profile, the Thünen Institute concluded: crop establishment systems without tillage result in a far lower storage of carbon per ha and year. In many studies, there was even a loss of humus.
Source: Thünen Report Nr. 64, November 2018, page 194ff

An explanation is given by Dr. Axel Don, Thünen Institute: “Humus derives from root and crop residues as well as from organic fertilisers such as manure and slurry. It enters the soil mainly from top. Without the reversal tillage with a plough, the newly formed humus remains close to the surface and is not mixed into the topsoil evenly. And there is an additional negative effect: without loosening the soil, there is a likelihood for increased microbial nitrate decomposition and higher nitrous oxide emissions (N20) . This gas is 300 times more harmful to the climate than CO2.”

Similar results and conclusions are also showed in a pan European study called “Catch C Project”
 

PSQ

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Scottish Borders
How do you mean handle second wheats and white crops?

The worst yield of wheat I've ever had was a 'non inversion' 2nd wheat. A soil borne fusarium disaster of a crop that died 3 weeks early. So again, how does DD cope with 2nd wheat crops?

I ask, because ploughing between cereals allows me to grow 25% of the farm in second wheat (5 year average 3.7t acre), and 25% in 3rd wheat (5ya 3.8t/a). In a year like this, it blows every other GM out of the water, regardless of saving a few quid on establishment.
 
The worst yield of wheat I've ever had was a 'non inversion' 2nd wheat. A soil borne fusarium disaster of a crop that died 3 weeks early. So again, how does DD cope with 2nd wheat crops?

I ask, because ploughing between cereals allows me to grow 25% of the farm in second wheat (5 year average 3.7t acre), and 25% in 3rd wheat (5ya 3.8t/a). In a year like this, it blows every other GM out of the water, regardless of saving a few quid on establishment.


A lot of us no tillers claim you see less take all in second wheat than in a cultivated wheat and there is a bit of science behind it. Personally I've had some amazing second wheats and some not so good ones. My land isn't quite heavy enough for consistent second wheats. We used to never be able to do second wheats so I'd probably say it has opened up a window of opportunity. Plenty of no tillers will also say min till second wheat can be a bit lousy. So the no till vs min till does seem to have an effect here

I've never grown 3rd wheat but I do grow 3rd barley but for me ideally I'd like to be 2 cereals and a break. In fact I'd like to have 6 different crop types all paying equally well but thats a bit more difficult
 

Two Tone

Member
Mixed Farmer
Can you show your workings on this figure?

How do you handle 2nd wheats / subsequent 'white' crops?
I can't show you the actual workings. But it is something I've picked up on from several places on the forum and various other sources. No doubt it will be part of ELMs.
However, my primary motivation was financial and a reduction in my own Labour, rather than any environmental, which is a bonus.

Everybody is going to have their own 'agenda' within this debate. But on the financial side, I have already saved more than what I will lose when BPS disappears!
And the time to try and learn about it is before it disappears.

As regards rotation and 2nd wheats, generally, I don't grow 2nd wheats. But my 2nd white straw crop is Winter barley.
The rotation is Winter Linseed, then 1st wheat, followed by Winter barley. This ensures very little time between harvest and drilling, without the need for a cover crop. The volunteers from the previous crop do this job instead.


Edit (sorry, had to stop for a meeting):
The reason for the Winter barley originated from my former ploughing, interspersed with 2 separate attempts with Min-till (NOT No-till). It was min-till that caused a Blackgrass explosion here. Hybrid Winter barley proved to be a good Blackgrass suppressant within the rotation, which was always worst in the 2nd white straw crop.
Cheaper than a 2nd wheat, using 2/3rds the fungicides, 20% less Nitrogen and an early harvest.
I wanted to grow conventional Sensation this Autumn, but the processor Wynnstay cocked up the order and could not deliver on time. So I planted all my successfully delivered Bazooka on Zero-tilled land and replaced the undelivered Sensation with 2nd wheat, on 80 acres of what will hopefully be my last ever ploughed and Combi drilled land. This had to have the full works pre-em herbicides and 2 doses of slug pellets so far. Whereas apart from one dose on one patch, no slug pellets on anything zero-till drilled. Yet another win!
 
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ajd132

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Suffolk
Have you done this or seen it done effectively? I have always felt that chopping the straw was a waste of time from an agronomic and ecological point of view.
Yes done many hectares like this mostly wheat after spring barley or spring oats. Have tried rape after stripping spring barley but was abit hit and miss but probably more down to using a disc drill which I never find as good as a fine for dding rape.
drilling into stripped stuff on the spring on clay is not very successful though
 
Yes done many hectares like this mostly wheat after spring barley or spring oats. Have tried rape after stripping spring barley but was abit hit and miss but probably more down to using a disc drill which I never find as good as a fine for dding rape.
drilling into stripped stuff on the spring on clay is not very successful though

So the results were more an issue with the drill not generating good seed to soil contact rather than the fact the straw was still standing?
 

ajd132

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Suffolk
The worst yield of wheat I've ever had was a 'non inversion' 2nd wheat. A soil borne fusarium disaster of a crop that died 3 weeks early. So again, how does DD cope with 2nd wheat crops?

I ask, because ploughing between cereals allows me to grow 25% of the farm in second wheat (5 year average 3.7t acre), and 25% in 3rd wheat (5ya 3.8t/a). In a year like this, it blows every other GM out of the water, regardless of saving a few quid on establishment.
By non inversion do you mean zero tilled or cultivated with a solo type machine?
agree with what you are saying RE high prices but our aim is to keep yields the same or improving whilst risking less capital. We are making decisions based on bps going and wheat at normal values.
Sounds like ploughing is working for you though so it’s a fairly worthless debate for us all to have (again!)
 

ajd132

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Suffolk
So the results were more an issue with the drill not generating good seed to soil contact rather than the fact the straw was still standing?
For osr yes, where I got good seed to soil contact it worked well but as I said I generally find the disc drill not great with tiny seeds unless conditions are perfect.
 

Cowabunga

Member
Location
Ceredigion,Wales
Let's face it, everything to do and every management technique used to grow food apart from organic cereal production, with no animal or human muck applied, is killing the planet and making it unfit for humans currently. Farming, apart from hunting/gathering…… sorry no hunting allowed [it's bad and cruel] is apparently 'bad' if not 'evil', so only gathering food should be allowed. I vote to go with the flow and give them precisely what these people want. Immediately after Christmas [I want to enjoy one last Christmas dinner].
 

BuskhillFarm

Member
Arable Farmer
I always love it when people are arrogant enough to think they’ve made a dent in the Earth. Just a flea on a dogs back
 
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I can't show you the actual workings. But it is something I've picked up on from several places on the forum and various other sources. No doubt it will be part of ELMs.
However, my primary motivation was financial and a reduction in my own Labour, rather than any environmental, which is a bonus.

Everybody is going to have their own 'agenda' within this debate. But on the financial side, I have already saved more than what I will lose when BPS disappears!
And the time to try and learn about it is before it disappears.

As regards rotation and 2nd wheats, generally, I don't grow 2nd wheats. But my 2nd white straw crop is Winter barley.
The rotation is Winter Linseed, then 1st wheat, followed by Winter barley. This assure very little time between harvest and drilling, without the need for a cover crop. The volunteers from the previous crop do this job instead.

I always say trying to make a no till system is economic, ecological and social.

You aim to make more money, for less work and less impact on the environment. Its not perfect and its not for everyone and you will make mistakes but if you can get it right its bloody great. And that's not to say it suits all farms or farmers - it doesn't. But those who think no till etc is a religion are just fools to themselves. Its still fjust a farm business decision.

The BPS reduction could well be ameliorated with payments for public goods which is great too. You won't need to replace your tractor and drill so often, you will need to rely on roundup (for now) and with luck and experience you can get your water and nutrients cycling a bit better.

End of debate
 

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