TWB Farms is an all combinable crops farm based near Lichfield, Staffordshire. Crops grown include winter wheat, winter rape, winter and spring beans, spring oats and spring linseed.
For many years we have always sought to grow crops in a sustainable way both financially and environmentally. The farm has run a min-til system for the past 16 years which after a steady evolution was running a 6m simba solo ‘R’ one pass cultivator and Vaderstad Rapid drill based around 609hp rubber tracked Challenger MT875c and 330 hp JD 8530 wheeled tractors. This 2 pass min-till establishment system had made significant financial and time savings over more traditional plough based systems however a long held interest and a few past experiments with direct drilling has always made us feel there was a better way still.
Rising fuel prices focus the mind when running a min-til system so dependent upon vast horsepower and heavy tractors damage the soil, limiting yields and necessitating costly repair. Direct drilling follows mother natures lead, it greatly simplifies the process of crop establishment into a simple, low power requirement single pass operation that aims to disturb the soil as little as possible allowing organisms and biology within the soil to thrive ultimately creating a better growing environment and in turn give soil the ability to sustain and repair itself, all of which hopefully lead to better yields and savings of input costs.
Visiting and speaking to a few forward thinking farmers around the world soon proved to us that with good enough management direct drilling could offer the time and financial savings we were looking at whilst improving our crops and most importantly our soils, hopefully yields and farming in a much more sustainable way with a significantly lower impact on the environment
So in summer 2012 the role of the Challanger and JD 8530 tractors with a combined power output of 930hp, the 6m solo and 6m Vaderstad seed drill was replaced by a simple 160hp tractor and a 4m used JD 750a drill !
Of all the years to make such a change 2012 could hardly have been worse ! The highest rainfall for 100 years saw a difficult harvest followed by an even harder crop establishment period, It is fair to say that regardless of establishment system conditions have been extreme and in the case of many farms impossible, even where farmers have got crops planted an almost “biblical” plague of slugs has seen many arable crops severely damaged or lost completely.
Despite these extremes we have managed so far to stick mostly to our plan, avoided soil damage and got crops in and growing. The diary of our progress is documented in this blog and I hope you enjoy reading and maybe learn a little from our experience so far and share your comments, thoughts and experience with us
Managing Partner TWB Farms