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Anglia Machinery Vertical strip seeder helps


heavy soil establishment • Twin-tine system benefits fen farm • Reduced compaction and damage • A more sustainable farming system


A


vertical strip seeding sys- tem developed by Clay- don Drills is proving to be a good crop establishment option on heavy clay soil in Lincolnshire. Using Claydon’s twin-tine set- up for vertical rather than hori- zontal strip seeding has deliv- ered numerous advantages for Mick Stanley, of M&G Farms at Helpringham, near Sleaford. The benefits were all too apparent during the challenging 2019/20 season, he says.


“The traditional way to farm on the Lincolnshire Fens was with crawler tractors, subsoilers, ploughs and combination drills. That was how things were done here for many years, but it was time consuming, labour intensive, frustratingly slow, hard work and expensive.” Instead, Mr Stanley uses a


Claydon Opti-Till strip seeding system, based around a 4m Hy- brid drill fitted with a twin-tine kit to vertically strip seed in lines rather than bands. It is the best way to establish 282ha of combi- nable crops on the farm and for neighbours, he says. Mr Stanley’s first experience of the Claydon system came in au-


tumn 2006 when he asked neigh- bouring farmer Tom Ireland to drill some oilseed rape with one of the company’s original V-Drills, so named because its tines were in a V formation.


Benefits “When Tom came here with the V-Drill I could see that it was much faster and more efficient than the conventional approach we had been using, but the tra- ditional farmer in me kept look- ing for potential pitfalls.” Initially, Mr Stanley says he


was concerned that the V-Drill might encourage flooding of seed- ed areas, poor rooting and slugs on the farm’s water-retaining heavy clay soils. But exactly the opposite prove to be the case. “Drainage and rooting were significantly improved because the soil structure, health and worm populations were so much better, but it was not an overnight process. The benefits continue to compound even years later.” In 2010, Mr Stanley purchased his own 4m Claydon Hybrid drill. Mechanically, he says, the Hy- brid drill is bulletproof and does a wonderful job. But the twin-tine


set-up is the better, more versa- tile option on fen soils with a high clay content.


The twin-tine set-up was fit- ted to cope with wet weather in 2012. “Initially I used the stand- ard one-piece leading tine and 7-inch-wide A-Shares but found that they could bring up slivers of wet clay in exceptionally wet conditions.”


The intention was to return to the standard set-up when the land dried out. But the twin-tine system was so effective and ver- satile that it has been used con- tinuously ever since. Evidence of that is that a new set of A-shares purchased six years ago remains unused.


“The land here is extreme- ly difficult to farm well and even now I am still learning be- cause every season is different. The 2019/20 season is a case in point, the first that I can remem- ber when no winter wheat could be grown anywhere on Helpring- ham Fen.”


Soil health The Claydon system has also in- creased Mr Stanley’s awareness of soil health. Over the years, the structure of the farm’s heavy clay land has improved significantly, he says, helped by use of bio-sol- ids and the huge increase in worm activity.


“It now drains much more


quickly after heavy rain, the sur- face remains level and is much more supportive, so even run- ning machinery on the land af- ter heavy rain has little impact. The System has transformed the way I farm, and average yields have definitely increased.” Most winter milling wheat


now averages over 9.9t/ha, with some varieties yielding up to 12.6t/ha, adds Mr Stanley. “It has also helped to ensure the fi- nancial sustainability of the op- eration for my son Ben,” he says.


56 ANGLIA FARMER • SEPTEMBER 2020


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