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Healthy life starts with the soil - Dick Neale - Crop Production Magazine

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“Farmers hold the key to improving human and planetary health, starting with the soil,” say the event organisers, and over 1200 farmers and scientists attending the two-day event was evidence in itself of a commitment to investment in sharing information regarding conservational practices.

Drill demonstrations

If the future of soil health lies in innovation, then some of the features on the drills that lined up during this year’s demonstrations will surely ensure a heathy foundation for farming.  Twelve of the leading names in drilling presented their very best equipment designed to meet the individual needs of customers.  All drills were demonstrated on ground with standing cover crops.

SlyAgri demonstrated its Boss drill, with its emphasis on control.  The drill applies pressure though hydro-pneumatics.  The coulter is angled so that it is pulled into the ground, lessening the amount of weight needed from the drill itself.  With its connection to a sensor on the gauge wheel, the hydraulic down pressure gives precision control of the coulter pressure.  This allows for close monitoring and control of furrow depth.  When combined with the V double disc which allows for a range of soil conditions, this drill offers a better early life for the seed, says the manufacturer.

Hutchinsons and Cousins’ collaboration formed the basis of their demonstration.  This featured a new crimper roller which, Hutchinsons’ Dick Neale says, fully crimps cover crops as opposed to simply bruising them.  The roller is fitted with helical blades, rolling over and crimping the crop ahead.  The fallen crop forms a very dense cover on the soil surface which effectively earns several weeks extra benefit from the crop through protecting soil and suppressing weeds.

John Deere demonstrated its 750A, and these proven drills continue to impress.  Although not much has changed, the 750A shows off several features which David Purdy of John Deere claims make this drill truly versatile.  Its 7° angle disc allows for precise seed placement in all conditions with very low soil disturbance.  It has exact depth control, ensuring levelled crop emergence even when drilled directly into stubble.  With low fuel costs, this drill operates at minimal power requirements rendering it a truly versatile machine, David adds.

This year, Sky demonstrated the Easydrill which matches this level of versatility by offering a certain level of customisability, says Sky’s Joe Redman.  The drill is fitted with a 3.5° angle single-disc opener, making it a truly minimal disturbance drill, says Joe.  Seed depth is controlled by the “Tandem” – a rubber depth wheel and two rear press wheels ensure depth variation is limited to only 1cm.  Dual depth outlets allow for a variety of cover crop species to be metered and placed at once.  The drill can seed three products at two depths simultaneously, allowing for a number of time-saving combinations grain, fertiliser and companion crop or slug pellets, for example.  As the name suggests, ease of use is the top priority here, and the number of adjustments does not hinder this, says Joe.  The 4m and 6m models are foldable.

Horsch presented a drill specifically designed for no-till application, although arguably rendering it less versatile.  In dryer soil (such as the ground conditions we saw the drill demonstrated on), Horsch’s Avatar SD line does an admirable job according to those attending the demo.  There’s very little soil disturbance thanks to the Single Disc coulters, arranged in two bars, which are exclusive to the Avatar.  The drill is available in 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12m widths, with a weight that puts a maximum of 310kg pressure down to each coulter, ensuring good penetration into hard soils.

Groundswell provided the first true no-till demonstration of Weaving’s new GD8000T.  The company launched the 8m drill at Cereals last month, intended to offer all the technology larger farms need to protect their soil structure and meeting customer demands for a wider drill, says the company.  The drill has 48 coulters with 6 coulters per m across two rows, and folds to less than 3m for transport.  The principle behind the GD coulter design is its double-disc arrangement, angled at 25° degrees to the vertical, pivoted around a central kingpin.  The larger leading disc cuts an opening, with the soil wedge lifted by the second disc, and the seed placed into the angled slot.  The soil drops back into place, firmed by the press wheel, causing less sidewall compression and more effective and consistent slot closing, says Weaving.

These drill manufacturers and distributors tout the versatile application and adjustability of their drills – the newest developments in ensuring each drill meets the exact needs of the user, and then some.  If healthy soil is the first step in improving planetary and human health, the there’s plenty of choice with where to begin.