SWITCHING TO ZERO-TILLAGE IMPROVES SOIL STRUCTURE

Farmers Weekly. 15 August 2012.   Adopting a no-till establishment system is not without its pitfalls in the early stages, but the long-term gains are believed to have massive potential.  Berkshire grower Andrew Randall hopes his new strategy of creating a sustainable cropping system and employing a direct drilling approach will outweigh any early challenges.  “The decision to go down the zero-tillage route is predominantly driven by sustainability,” says Mr Randall, who runs the family farm near Maidenhead with his father Alan.

“We are on relatively light land, with low organic matter and poor moisture retention. As we suffer from increasing extremes in weather, we hope that being more sympathetic to the soil will enhance its characteristics.”  Coming up to the first anniversary of the Randalls’ switch to direct drilling, they hope the move will help to retain the organic matter in the soil and leave the land with an improved soil structure.

“We were also concerned about the current chemistry available for grassweed control, particularly blackgrass,” he explains.  “Although we don’t have a huge blackgrass problem, we would like to keep it that way and all the research I have done points towards leaving seeds on the surface as the best means of managing the weed seed bank.”  read more