No-Tillage 2.0, the next generation, is presented to UK farmers
January 2015 saw a Cross Slot roadshow touring England, outlining some key issues facing arable agriculture. Baker No-Tillage Ltd GM, Bill Ritchie and Primewest Ltd MD, Paul Alexander, highlighted data showing a global trend with grain yields that have plateaued and, in some cases, are declining. Despite major technological improvements in plant genetics, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and farming systems such as precision farming and controlled traffic, all of which create potential for increased yields, global and UK yields have not increased. The benefits bought by these technologies have been offset by declining soil health from decreased soil organic matter, declining soil structure leading to compaction and water-logging and declining soil macro- and micro-organism populations and activity.
Farmers attending the series of nine presentations were invited to compare a spade of soil from near a hedgerow or power pole with another spade of soil from the centre of the same field. The difference in the two samples of the same soil that has been essentially undisturbed for years compared with continuous tillage is invariably striking. The undisturbed soil has better structure and natural drainage, more earthworms and more organic matter (darker in colour).
The presentation highlighted the role that a new generation of ultra-low-disturbance (ULD) no-tillage can play in regenerating these soils. "Sustaining these soils in their current degraded state will not bring adequate benefits" stated Ritchie. "We need to regenerate these soils to their undisturbed condition if we are to gain the potential yield benefits presented by other companion technologies that have been introduced over the last 20-30 years." Cross Slot is the second generation ULD no-tillage technology poised to present this opportunity.
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