What are the benefits of no-till farming?

martian

DD Moderator
BASE UK Member
Location
N Herts
Reading other peoples horror stories about harvest elsewhere on the forum, I'm minded to keep my head down as things don't seem too bad here. It's not been a record breaking harvest (and we've still got a fair bit of spring wheat to cut), but things haven't gone too badly and it's been a cheap year spray-wise. One of the first things that strikes me is how well the soil has stood up to the wet winter and hot, dry early summer. We probably haven't had as much rain as a lot of you, but the ground travels beautifully, you can't see where the combine or corn-carts have been and the cover crops are going into a lovely tilth.

We managed to drill almost everything we intended in the autumn, as the undisturbed soil took the small amount of traffic required to slot the seed in, despite the wet. Three or four fields were resown in the spring as they weren't going to make a crop, but otherwise we were happy. Likewise the spring sowing went ok, but the following drought knocked their potential, but yields on the whole haven't been disastrous. The vital point from a resilient farm point of view is that costs are minimal, so exposure to risk is much reduced.

How are others finding this year? Were your soils able to provide your crops with water and nourishment through the hot spell? Or are you all joining the frenzy of plough buying?
 

robs1

Member
We had large patches that drowned but the bits that didnt have yielded well, strangely the bits we drilled in late November when I just took a gamble did better than that drilled late Oct, ground in good nick ATM
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
Reading other peoples horror stories about harvest elsewhere on the forum, I'm minded to keep my head down as things don't seem too bad here. It's not been a record breaking harvest (and we've still got a fair bit of spring wheat to cut), but things haven't gone too badly and it's been a cheap year spray-wise. One of the first things that strikes me is how well the soil has stood up to the wet winter and hot, dry early summer. We probably haven't had as much rain as a lot of you, but the ground travels beautifully, you can't see where the combine or corn-carts have been and the cover crops are going into a lovely tilth.

We managed to drill almost everything we intended in the autumn, as the undisturbed soil took the small amount of traffic required to slot the seed in, despite the wet. Three or four fields were resown in the spring as they weren't going to make a crop, but otherwise we were happy. Likewise the spring sowing went ok, but the following drought knocked their potential, but yields on the whole haven't been disastrous. The vital point from a resilient farm point of view is that costs are minimal, so exposure to risk is much reduced.

How are others finding this year? Were your soils able to provide your crops with water and nourishment through the hot spell? Or are you all joining the frenzy of plough buying?

similar story here really, soil is in great condition, travels well and cover going in well

everything drilled, nothing redrilled except osr but that was not a establishment issue !

yields poor (big spring drought) but cost VERY low so could be worse

gawd knows how we would cope ifcwe had the fixrd costs of a tillage farm and had spent on VC’s like some seem to !

prices are good - I'm planning on making a profit which this year is a fair achievement imo !
 

teslacoils

Member
Location
Lincolnshire
I'm not no-till. But warming to it. One observation is that areas with heavy residue simply do not dry / drain anything like the clear bits. This was really noticeable where we have land baled and the baler didn't get it all, or where chopping on a windy day has not evenly spread the residue. I'm not sure my residue management is good enough, and combining only on calm days is not an option.

Neighbour is getting on well with no till, continuous spring barley baling the straw and ld subsoiling and problem patches. I've muck and grass to deal with, and yet to see good results from zero till into ex grassland - hence looking to put winter beans in with a deeper drill.

That's pretty academic if beans make no profit and have no fungicides.
 
I'm not no-till. But warming to it. One observation is that areas with heavy residue simply do not dry / drain anything like the clear bits. This was really noticeable where we have land baled and the baler didn't get it all, or where chopping on a windy day has not evenly spread the residue. I'm not sure my residue management is good enough, and combining only on calm days is not an option.

Neighbour is getting on well with no till, continuous spring barley baling the straw and ld subsoiling and problem patches. I've muck and grass to deal with, and yet to see good results from zero till into ex grassland - hence looking to put winter beans in with a deeper drill.

That's pretty academic if beans make no profit and have no fungicides.

We've just had the balers in to bale some straw, but only where I knew we had to cultivate anyway. I'm not quite sure how they would work with continuous no-till because of the wheel traffic. Bale chaser tractor had tyres at 35 psi, and if it's at all wet, the crop will be rubbish anywhere they've driven.
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
We've just had the balers in to bale some straw, but only where I knew we had to cultivate anyway. I'm not quite sure how they would work with continuous no-till because of the wheel traffic. Bale chaser tractor had tyres at 35 psi, and if it's at all wet, the crop will be rubbish anywhere they've driven.

CTF - it can be done, we are bailing everything this year

although to be honest now I think our soils are so resilient it doesn’t really matter if you drive on them
 

Dockers

Member
Location
Hampshire
Hi Martian,
Glad all well with you. Good harvest here, about 10% down on last year. Wheat 9.8t/ha. OSR 3.88t/ha. Spring beans still to cut. Crops and soil have coped well with the weather but we have been no till/ strip till for a long time now. Sorry to here that you are baling straw this year Clive, but you may need the income !!! Good to bale if you can return with FYM IMO.
Still wonder why more people do not change to this system ? Simple, profitable and enjoyable.
Lots of cultivations going on around here, must have money and time to burn ? Hey HO.
Enjoy the autumn .
 

martian

DD Moderator
BASE UK Member
Location
N Herts
Hi Martian,
Glad all well with you. Good harvest here, about 10% down on last year. Wheat 9.8t/ha. OSR 3.88t/ha. Spring beans still to cut. Crops and soil have coped well with the weather but we have been no till/ strip till for a long time now. Sorry to here that you are baling straw this year Clive, but you may need the income !!! Good to bale if you can return with FYM IMO.
Still wonder why more people do not change to this system ? Simple, profitable and enjoyable.
Lots of cultivations going on around here, must have money and time to burn ? Hey HO.
Enjoy the autumn .
Glad all going well with you, Dockers.
We were discussing today whether to buy in straw rather than have the hassle of baling our own, which does so much good for the soil. Bit late for this year...but neighbours all seem to love selling straw
Spring barley did a spectacularly poor 2.5 tonnes/hectare with a spend of £190/ha...barely worth the trouble. Certainly not enough straw to bother getting baler hitched on. Can't remember now why we thought we'd bother planting the bloody stuff.
 

ajd132

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Suffolk
CTF - it can be done, we are bailing everything this year

although to be honest now I think our soils are so resilient it doesn’t really matter if you drive on them
We don’t bale a lot, but When we do our baling contractors have the skid units on the back that drop off the bales at the end. I’ve tried to get other gangs with chasers to stay on CTF but it’s virtually impossible, they are a law unto themselves
 
I know straw is worth money, but can’t see continually taking straw off is a good idea.
we have been chopping the straw 20 years plus and this year has really highlighted the benefits. Had to ploughing and combi drill ( which I hate doing) the last 100 acres of wheat last Autumn end of November, early December. Despite no rain in the spring for 10 weeks it yielded between 8-9 ton/ha which I was really chuffed with.
Cut for a neighbor who drilled about the same time on very similar soils, yielded 5-6 ton /ha.
Difference- he sells the straw off every year.
 
I do think the improvement in soil structure will pay in dry years but how often do we get a genuine dry season where crops get grief from it? Down here it is the other way around.

I still think the stripper header is the answer myself, I don't see any point in cutting straw, thrashing it and using horsepower to chop the stuff if a drill can pass through it ok and it shelters the next crop up. I wonder how short a wheat crop could be whilst maintaining the optimum level of yield? Dwarf varieties of OSR have been around for some time, how about shorter wheat and barley which needs less PGR and produces less residue?

The root mass from a cereal crop alone must leave some organic matter behind, along with the stubble.

Has anyone got yield meter results that demonstrate an actual yield improvement from no-till over time? Maybe you guys in the drier parts of the UK or on lighter dirt?
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
I know straw is worth money, but can’t see continually taking straw off is a good idea.
we have been chopping the straw 20 years plus and this year has really highlighted the benefits. Had to ploughing and combi drill ( which I hate doing) the last 100 acres of wheat last Autumn end of November, early December. Despite no rain in the spring for 10 weeks it yielded between 8-9 ton/ha which I was really chuffed with.
Cut for a neighbor who drilled about the same time on very similar soils, yielded 5-6 ton /ha.
Difference- he sells the straw off every year.

I chopped everything for 17 years, last 3 years we have sold some, at£50-£80/acre can cart and spread a lot of compost for the same money !
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
I do think the improvement in soil structure will pay in dry years but how often do we get a genuine dry season where crops get grief from it? Down here it is the other way around.

I still think the stripper header is the answer myself, I don't see any point in cutting straw, thrashing it and using horsepower to chop the stuff if a drill can pass through it ok and it shelters the next crop up. I wonder how short a wheat crop could be whilst maintaining the optimum level of yield? Dwarf varieties of OSR have been around for some time, how about shorter wheat and barley which needs less PGR and produces less residue?

The root mass from a cereal crop alone must leave some organic matter behind, along with the stubble.

Has anyone got yield meter results that demonstrate an actual yield improvement from no-till over time? Maybe you guys in the drier parts of the UK or on lighter dirt?

I have good weigh-bridge data going back 17 years showing our average yield steadily improving. However it would be wrong to attribute that to no tillage alone, varieties, fungicides and my own knowledge has also improved a lot over the period
 

Clive

Staff Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lichfield
I do think the improvement in soil structure will pay in dry years but how often do we get a genuine dry season where crops get grief from it? Down here it is the other way around.

I still think the stripper header is the answer myself, I don't see any point in cutting straw, thrashing it and using horsepower to chop the stuff if a drill can pass through it ok and it shelters the next crop up. I wonder how short a wheat crop could be whilst maintaining the optimum level of yield? Dwarf varieties of OSR have been around for some time, how about shorter wheat and barley which needs less PGR and produces less residue?

The root mass from a cereal crop alone must leave some organic matter behind, along with the stubble.

Has anyone got yield meter results that demonstrate an actual yield improvement from no-till over time? Maybe you guys in the drier parts of the UK or on lighter dirt?

if only header losses were lower from a stripper I would agree, been there done that, sold the header !
 

Top cereal and oilseed growers honoured at the Yield Enhancement Network Awards 2021

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Despite an average growing year for most crops, many growers managed to go above and beyond their predicted max yields, with Lincolnshire grower Tim Lamyman taking the top spots for his wheat yields and his world record breaking winter barley yield.

The highest cereal and oilseed yields achieved at harvest 2021 were announced at this year’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN) Awards on Wednesday 24th November at the Croptec Show. With award presentations by Tom Bradshaw, Vice President of NFU, 24 farms took home the evening’s top awards for highest yield and highest potential yield achieved for wheat, winter and spring barley, oats, and oilseed. The 2021 winners came from all corners of the UK, as well as from as far afield as Finland and New Zealand.

Familiar names from 2020 made the...
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