Prompted by the new three crop rule, one Newmarket farm manager took to opportunity to re-evaluate both cropping and drilling regimes.
Following last year’s announcement of the controversial three crop rule from Brussels, Newmarket-based farm manager Paul Jolland decided it was not only time to reconsider his cropping options but also to purchase a new drill which would enable him to widen his options on both late drilling and spring drilling. “We had always been wheat/rape due to prices but in order to satisfy the new rules we opted for spring beans as the third crop,” he says.
Farming over 250 hectares (618 acres) on heavy boulder clay at one of the highest points in Suffolk, 120 metres above sea level, Mr Jolland also decided that in changing his cropping he also needed to allow for greater flexibility on drilling dates. “Due to our altitude our average soil temperatures often mean we can be up to two weeks behind neighbouring farms so whatever we bought drill-wise needed to provide us with a bigger drilling window,” he says.
As a result, in September 2014 Mr Jolland purchased a six metre SM1909 Soladrill from Yorkshire based machinery importer Keith Rennie Machinery, which was used immediately to drill first wheat on September 23. “Simply mounted on a three point linkage I was impressed by the set up speed compared to the Simba Freeflow drill we’d used previously,” he says.
While considering cropping option, Paul Jolland also took the opportunity to buy a new drill to provide a bigger drilling window.
Another bonus, thanks to being linkage mounted, is the ability drill accurately drill right into the corners, says Mr Jolland, while working the headland area first which is his preferred method. “There’s very good clearance between the tines within the staggered four row configuration so the trash moves effectively through the coulters during min-till or direct drilling. “The Sola can also operate in all cultivation methods; direct, minimum tillage or plough-based, which is exactly what we needed having brought an additional crop into the rotation,” he says.
Before purchase of this drill, Mr Jolland did consider several others, but felt that none of them could work across as wide a variety of tillage scenarios as the Sola, he says. “Set-up time and simplicity of set-up was also a consideration and the Sola really impressed.”
The move away from a four metre working width to six meters also means fewer passes, but Mr Jolland has also found that the drill is still light enough to go behind his 140hp New Holland T7. “I haven’t looked at the overall fuel savings yet but leaving the larger T8 in the shed has got to be a bonus,” he says.
“Although we’ve only had the SM1909 for eight months I don’t foresee to many maintenance problems on the horizon. The drill has a solid enough build and I like the very hard faced construction around the edge of the seed outlet which should stop the fins wearing out over time. When the tips of the tines begin to wear I can simply replace the tip itself, not the whole tine, which was not the case on previous drills we’ve had,” he says.
“Coming back to the decision to widen the rotation, one of the key benefits I see is the control of our black grass. The main plan is to create a stale seed bed and get all the black grass sprayed off before we drill. However, despite our ‘best practice’ approach we had found previously that some lighter cultivator drills moved the surface soil too much which actually helped the black grass re-establish, undoing some of the good work we’d done pre-drilling “ he says.