From: Phil Jarvis, Leics-Northants-Rutland county chair, he talks about managing soil when weather conditions aren’t right:Not so long ago I rather bravely/foolishly stated that “anyone can direct drill on lighter land”. In my defence, getting no-till right (enough) on our heavy land has been known to cause me a few sleepless nights especially after some of the extreme weather events we’ve had to deal with in recent years.
I know that after a year like 2012, I can’t get the soil right again in one year and I can’t always rely on a great seedbed and good soil structure to get the water out of the fields. Our beans got Fusarium after 5 inches of rain fell in May last year, their roots are sitting in water for too long.
So for us, it’s about hitting the right balance of yields, soil structure, and keeping my soils - my “shop floor” - in my fields. I think I can achieve that balance when conditions aren’t perfect, by not disturbing the topsoil too much but using the equivalent of a low disturbance sward lifter, on arable land,to help the water get away.
2012 also taught me (some) patience. I keep reminding myself that waiting to drill a spring crop after a year like 2012 not only makes sense for the “shop floor” but also for my bank balance as I’m not throwing money at seeds and chemicals that are only going to go backwards or down the drains.
But I’m not giving up. There’s a lot to play for - a more resilient soil with better structure, that’s less trafficked, with higher organic matter levels, a better balance of air and water and more earthworms – but it’s a long road with some unexpected twists and turns.
A long chat with a direct driller on sandy soils helped me see that it isn't as simple as anyone can direct drill on light land" whatever the weather. It's those lucky ones on free-draining loamy soils who have it easy!
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