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Disc or Tine? Newport Monitor Farm investigates

Farmers at a recent AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds’ Newport Monitor Farm meeting debated the potential benefits and challenges offered by two different no-till systems.

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Disc or tines when it comes to no-till? #tillage #arable

Representatives from two manufacturers spoke to arable farmers and demonstrated their drills, one with tines and one with discs, at the meeting held at Howle Manor.


Sam Watson-Jones, host of the Newport Monitor Farm, currently operates a conventional system at the 485 hectare (1198 acre) Shropshire farm. Motivated by low prices and concerns for the soil, Mr Watson-Jones is considering changing to no-till.


He grows feed wheat, oilseed rape, oats and potatoes on light, sandy, loamy soils.


Like many other farmers, Mr Watson-Jones is looking at his costs to see where savings can be made, as well as taking into consideration the health of his soils.


At the moment, he uses a set of discs to establish a chit of weed seeds, followed by a Sumo trio and a 3 metre Väderstad drill.


See also: Drilling options widened thanks to new drill


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Key points from the meeting for Howle Manor:

  • Making fewer passes on the field could save fuel costs
  • It is vital to get drainage right
  • No-till could increase worm counts but also risk increasing slug pressure
  • It would be vital to establish a good seedbed before drilling

Howle Farm’s agronomist, Bill Jones, said: “The light soils around here are becoming rather structureless. It’s been a long time since there were livestock rotations here and the soils have had quite a lot of potatoes and sugar beet in them. Anything that would put organic matter back into the soils would be good.


“One of our fears is slug damage – we need to think about slug control and avoid getting uneven crops.”


Simon Weaving, of Weaving Machinery, said: “On this light sandy, loamy soil, the benefits of a disc drill would be less soil erosion when it’s wet, building organic matter, and reduced costs.


“When this soil gets wet and sticky it might be challenging, but then when you’re going no-till you’d want to be going onto the land earlier anyway.”


Jeff Claydon, Claydon Drills, added: “Providing you check for slugs and spray off weeds, you could go straight in with a tine drill and establish the crops cheaply, with one pass. The time saving could be fantastic.

“In any direct drill system it’s absolutely crucial to do stubble management,” he said.


Disc vs Tine comparison

Tine drill summary




· Will work in a wide range of soils

· Seed depth can be variable

· Will work in wetter conditions

· Can leave seedbed and seed open to slugs

· Can handle crop redisue on soil surface

· Increased soil movement encourages weed germination

· Cheap to own and operate

· Can be power hungry

· Works well in stony soils


Source: Harry Henderson, ADHB



Disc drill summary




· Precise seed placement depth

· ‘Hair pinning’ of crop residue leaving seed trapped with no soil contact

· Low horsepower requirement

· In wet soil conditions slot walls can ‘smear’ causing poor seed survival

· Lower soil movement, less weed germination

· Higher operating/maintenance costs

· Disc can help penetrate though soils

· Stones can give trouble

· Can work at high forward speeds

· Can create too much tilth causing anaerobic conditions in high rainfall events soon after drilling

Source: Harry Henderson, ADHB


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