Sutton St Edmunds farmer advocates no-till

Grower Tony Gent.

Grower Tony Gent.

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We have just gone on to our fields with the drill to sow the remainder of our winter wheat seed, the first day or so of March being the last date that it would be ok for a crop that would normally have been sown five or six months ago.

After record rainfall during the autumn, February has been mostly fine which has dried the soil out on the surface, but heavy soil is still very wet underneath.

Working on our no-till soil we are amazed at how the structure has recovered. What we have found is that, because the soil has not been aerated by cultivation, it has not retained as much excess water in its structure and so has not turned into soft mud underneath. Therefore when the surface dries the soil is much stronger and will allow sowing to take place with less damage to the soil and be hopefully moisture stable for the crop to establish.

That’s good theory for the fields that have no surface trash from the previous crop, but the real test is with the fields that have last year’s straw preventing the surface drying so easily. I think we will need lots of patience on those fields and have to adapt our cropping to weather and timing.

Using new techniques, such as no-till, it’s all too easy when things don’t go quite to plan to blame being different, but we feel that it has stood the test pretty well considering we are still in the early years and there is still much to learn and evolve the system to suit our soils and climate.