CASE STUDIES

Case studies

Berkshire – Jonathan Holland

Autumn 2019 was the wettest since national records began in 1910, yet during a period when many farms using conventional or min-till methods had an agonising wait for more favourable weather, Jonathan Holland strip seeded almost 1000 acres of crops on his own using a 7.5m Claydon Straw Harrow and 4.8m Claydon Hybrid mounted drill.

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Ayrshire – Lord David Kennedy

On his Maybole estate, Lord David Kennedy used to plough the land most months of the year. After 10 years of using min-till, he moved to Claydon direct strip seeding in 2010. Since then, he has noticed big improvements in soil health and worms populations.

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Gloucestershire – Eric Lewis

At an age when most farmers would have long given up an active role on their farm, Eric Lewis remains as keen as ever to do the job himself. And, according to Eric, it’s the Claydon System that makes this possible.

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Berkshire – Jonathan Holland

Back in 2015, Jonathan Holland was carefully considering the future of his farming operation, even though yields were good and the business was profitable. Despite being in a good position, he felt that the economic and legislative pressures on the farming sector would only increase, reducing profitability.

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County Durham – David Hankey

Using strip seeding solely to save money is the wrong approach, believes David Hankey. Instead, he says that caring for the soil must come first and everything else will follow. “The more you work with nature the better the results,” says David, who farms 300 acres at Dunkirk Farm, Chester-le-Street within sight of the famous Angel of the North statue which dominates the skyline beside the A1 at Gateshead.

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Northamptonshire – Toby Saunders

Until 2009 Northamptonshire farmer Toby Saunders used traditional plough-based and min-till methods to establish combinable crops, but they were slow, expensive and inefficient.  Since adopting the Claydon Opti-Till® System in 2009, Mr Saunders has never looked back − it has transformed the way he farms.

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Yorkshire – Graham Potter

Plough-based establishment of combinable crops is unsustainable at current prices according to award-winning farmer Graham Potter, who has seen significant economic and agronomic benefits since changing to strip seeding.

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Suffolk – Andrew West

Warren Hill Farms in Suffolk produces up to 14 crops, from herbs to maize. Despite the wide variation in seed sizes and sowing depths, all are established using just one drill whose accuracy in establishing crops is “exceptional”.

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Essex – Donald Macaulay

Switching from conventional cultivations to direct strip seeding has brought multiple benefits for Essex farming business I J Macaulay & Sons. Fuel used to establish crops has been reduced by more than 50 per cent, tractor hours are a fraction of what they were, timeliness and soil condition have been significantly improved and headlands are now much more productive, increasing average yields.

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Northumberland – James Fairbairn

Changing to the Claydon System of crop establishment on their arable farm in Northumberland enabled the Fairbairn family to replace the 335hp tractor, which was the mainstay of a min-till system, with a 215hp model. This has saved significant capital and operating costs. Despite the considerable reduction in horsepower, the timeliness of establishment and quality of crops has improved, while additional revenue is being generated by using their 4m Claydon Hybrid to drill 500 acres for other farms in the area.

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Yorkshire – Phil Redfearn

Phil and Simon Redfearn are third-generation farmers whose family have lived at Park House Farm, Birkin near Knottingley for almost 100 years. Phil and Simon farm 170 hectares. Since making the switch to the Claydon System in 2012, they have made significant time and cost savings as well as seen progressive improvement in soil condition and levelling of fields as surface compaction is continually removed.

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East Yorkshire – Mark Duckitt

Establishing crops on heavy clay soils demands a more flexible approach. Being able to farm his very heavy, difficult-to-manage land more efficiently and with more timeliness were the reasons behind Mark Duckitt’s decision to switch to the Claydon System of crop establishment in 2014. The change has brought numerous benefits, both financial and agronomic.

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Dorset – Julian Lownds

The economic pressures of farming in an environment of low agricultural commodity prices were the driving force behind Dorset farmer and contractor Julian Lownds’ decision to change from min-till methods of crop establishment to strip tillage.

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Suffolk – Hugh Edgeley

Adopting strip tillage has transformed crop establishment for award-winning family farming partnership R & H Edgeley in Suffolk, bringing a wide range of benefits.

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Yorkshire – Graham Potter

“After visiting the Claydon farm in Suffolk in 2013,I bought a 4.8m Claydon Hybrid drill to fit in with our 24m system. It was simple, well made, cost very little to maintain and made a big difference to farm profitability through savings in establishment costs. I hadn’t expected higher yields, but they were a pleasant surprise.”

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Hampshire – Andrew Day

Compton Manor Estate at King’s Somborne in Hants is the sort of place you’d dream about –– 970ha of rolling Hants countryside, there’s 530ha of arable, set in generous fields among well managed mature woodland. Passing through is one of the best stretches of the River Test for trout fishing, and this, along with the woodland, has earned it a reputation as one of the top sporting estates in the country –– truly a jewel set in a scepter’d isle.

But just try and work its soils. “Evil” is how drill operator Peter Jarvis describes them. Although it neighbours easy-going chalk downland, Compton itself sits on brutal, heavy clay, laced with unforgiving flints. When Andrew Day took over as estate manager three years ago, it was at the start of a radical change in the way these soils were kept in check.

DEEP CULTIVATIONS CULTURE

“Previously, there’d been a culture of deep cultivations,” explains Andrew Day. “Ploughs and heavy tines made multiple passes to beat the soils into shape. The estate had more tractors than it needed and no earthworms at all, while the wearing metal and fuel bills were spiralling out of control and proportion. This may have been sustainable in a good year, but it wasn’t one to rely on as costs rose.” The quest had been underway to find a new cultivation system.

“A number of demo machines had been tried and frequently went back broken. We’ve a number of small fields with tight corners, which made the previous drill –– a trailed Horsch Sprinter –– difficult to manoeuvre. A drill with too many press wheels isn’t suitable because the flints just tear them to shreds.”

In the end, the decision was taken to buy a 4m Claydon Hybrid drill, which arrived shortly after Andrew Day started on the estate in March 2011. “The Claydon sows the crop in bands, so you only move as much soil as you need. The first crop we tried was spring barley, and there’s always an issue over ensuring the crop has enough moisture. But it established well –– because you’re not moving so much soil, it doesn’t dry out and the plants find their own moisture. The crop of Propino yielded 7t/ha, which for us is pretty good.”

That autumn was the drill’s first full season. “It did a remarkable job, and all the crops looked fantastic.

One thing we noticed straight off was the time saving previously drilling had typically carried oninto Nov or even Dec, but the Claydon buys us time on our difficult ground.

”The wet conditions in June and July 2012 scuppered hopes of high yields, however, and proved a challenge for getting the crop established that autumn. “We struggled, but then everyone did. We did wonder whether we should bring in the plough, but we stood by the system and got everything drilled up. Like many others in the UK, some of our 2012 winter oilseed rape and wheat failed, and I think if that had been the first year we’d operated the new system, we would’ve questioned whether we’d made the right move, but by then we’d had exposure to the benefits.”

The Claydon system is a relatively simple one. Leading tines, set at 300mm centres, create a deep-drainage tract down to 150mm depth. These lift just enough soil for the following A-share tines, which place the seed in a 150mm-wide band. A choice of batter boards, harrows or press wheels (or an optional combination of two of these) cover the seeds at the back.

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Hampshire – TerraStar Product Focus: Compton Manor Estates Hampshire

TerraStar: fast, shallow, simple, robust – yet good mixing whilst leaving level and firm ground

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Buckinghamshire – Rick Davies

The need to replace machinery often provides a catalyst for change and that was exactly how the Davies family came to adopt the Claydon System, which has dramatically reduced costs, improved timeliness and benefited soil structure, while improving yields and profitability.

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Bedfordshire – Jamie Osborne

Turvey Farms Ltd is a privately-owned 2000-acre estate in Bedfordshire. It hosts 10 days of private and syndicated pheasant shooting each season. Since using the Claydon System to establish game cover crops, quality has significantly improved and costs have decreased. The soil is in much better condition and the population of English partridge has also benefited as stubbles remain largely intact, providing dry ground, food and shelter.

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Devon – Mark & Emma Sampson

Purchasing a Claydon Hybrid Direct Drill has enabled Mark and Emma Sampson to dramatically reduce the cost of establishing crops on their own farm in Devon and allowed them to add a much-in-demand service to their contracting business.

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