7 drills in 7 days: an update

At our Summer Open Day we had a trailer with seating which we drove along the top of the field which we have our drill try-out plots in. From this elevated vantage point, we invited people to look down the rows of the clearly signed plots and see for themselves if there is any difference in appearance between plots drilled by different machines. Obviously, this is a highly subjective method and different row widths can deceive the eye. The closer row width of the Amazone Cayena looking a little thicker perhaps than the slight twin band appearance of the Weaving GD, or the more pronounced twin band of the Mzuri? The Sky Easy drill looked quite consistent and more even perhaps than the Simtech? Perhaps the combine wheelings seemed to be showing slightly more in the Cross Slot plot compared to the John Deere plot next door? I am not being deliberately vague, it really is very difficult to make a judgement on appearance alone. So, therefore I decided to count ears. The table below in the second and third lines are the ears I counted in a quarter square metre. I did two counts in each plot, ideally this should have been many more, but I only did it for a short while to relieve the boredom of grass weed rogueing!

So, the sixth row of figures is the mean ears per square metre and it is quite interesting to compare this with the plants per square metre that we counted on 9 November. From this we have calculated the ears per plant. You can see big differences between the drills which we can assume are down to tillering, nearly twice the number of ears per plant with the Mzuri compared to the Weaving. But we have noticed that many of the ears on the Mzuri plot are quite small, so this may not be a good thing. Interestingly, the drills that are closest to the AHDB benchmark figures for established plants (260/m2) and ears/ m2 (460) are Simtech and Cross Slot.

Because this is all rather confusing and inconclusive, we are yield mapping and will be able to say at harvest which drill has given the greatest yield. It must be remembered that this is only a farm try-out however. Small differences will be ignored.

The question most people asked was, have we decided which is the best drill and would we change from our Mzuri? Well no, we have not made any decisions. However, we are keen to reduce tractor weights and so if we could find a drill that could be pulled with a lighter, lower horse power tractor which could perform well then, we might be tempted.

We are not going to rank these drills even after we get the yields in. It just would not be fair. We are hoping that people who have followed this try-out may have a little more understanding of the type of drill which may suit the system they want to implement.

Sky Cayena Weaving Simtech CrossSlot JD 750A Mzuri
Seed Rate 200 200 200 200 200 200 200
157 132 118 119 111 111 138
136 126 114 115 118 117 135
Average Ears/m2 146.5 129.0 116.0 117.0 114.5 114.0 136.5
Std Dev 10.5 3.0 2.0 2.0 3.5 3.0 1.5
Ears per metre sq. 586.0 516.0 464.0 468.0 458.0 456.0 546.0
Plants per metre sq. 344.0 314.0 310.0 289.0 250.0 212.0 187.0
Ears per plant 1.70 1.64 1.50 1.62 1.83 2.15 2.92

Video: drill try-out in action

Find out more about the Chelmsford Monitor Farm

Christy Willett

Christy Willett

Christy and Hew Willett farm at Parklands Farm in Galleywood on the fringe of Chelmsford, Essex. This mother-and-son team farm in partnership across 475 ha of arable cropping, with a mixture of owned and rented land. Their rotation is typically two wheats followed by spring beans/OSR, although this has become more flexible since 2012 to include spring barley and spring oats, based on the condition of each field. The farm has recently moved to a strip-till system and is focussed on the significant challenge of grass weed management, including black-grass and ryegrass. Most of their wheat is destined for local millers. The farm has diversified into horse liveries, as well as office and industrial lets. Christy and Hew see their greatest challenge as keeping their cost of production as low as possible without sacrificing yield. They are keen to use benchmarking, on-farm trials and discussions from the Monitor Farm programme to improve and develop their farm business in these critical years for the industry.

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