Drill differences highlighted in establishment trials

  • The Hutchinsons/ CAS drill demonstration at Aston Grange Farm, near Runcorn kindly hosted by Stephen & Andrew Shaw in autumn 2022, was never designed to find the “best” direct drill, but to provide a view on the performance of different drills when drilling wheat into cover crops and the impact on the subsequent crop establishment

Plant counts taken after establishment and in the spring have shown some interesting differences.

“When it comes to deciding which drill to buy, or cover crop to sow, there is clearly no one-size-fits-all answer. Every farm, field and soil is different, and everyone has their preferred brand, not to mention budget,” explains agronomist Daniel Baron.

“We wanted to trial several types of disc and tine drills and look at differences in wheat establishment as well as looking at the impact of a starter fertiliser

“The high rainfall in the north-west is one of the biggest challenges to crop establishment and production,” explains Mr Baron. “Up here we are looking at average rainfall of 900mm.”

“Cover crops potentially play an important role in helping to pull moisture out of the ground and help dry up soils to widen the drilling window.”

“It all comes down to being able to get onto the fields to drill in the autumn.

The 10 ha field for the trial, previously in potatoes, was divided into sections of just under a hectare each with the three types of cover crop drilled with a range of different drill systems across each section.

Established in August these consisted of :

1) Maxi Cover- Buckwheat, white mustard and berseem clover- Designed for rapid growth

2) Maxi Veg- Linseed, buckwheat phacelia and crimson clover

3) Maxi Impact- Sunflowers, linseed, buckwheat, phacelia, crimson clover and berseem clover

On the 15th September, Extase winter wheat was drilled at 168kg/ha aiming for 330 seeds m2 20% field loss to give 260 plants/m2.

“We also wanted to look at the effect that a starter fertiliser such as Primary P would have on the crop, so for the plots drilled with the Horsch, Avatar, Sky, Mzuri and Claydon drills, 10kg/ha of Primary P was used on half the plot,” adds Daniel.

Mr Baron says: “By the 19th October, we were able to see some clear differences in establishment that showed that generally disc drills coped better than tine drills with high residue levels.”

“Looking at individual drill performance, the Horsch Avatar had the best average establishment in and the Kverneland U Drill did an excellent job even though not marketed as a direct drill.”

“Most noticeably, Primary P had a significant impact on establishment with a 20-30% improvement over those plots that did not receive any. Plant counts were taken again in mid February and there was still a clear benefit from those trials that received the Primary-P.”

“We will take the plots to harvest and then we will have the complete picture and be in a position to draw some final conclusions.”