Having ventured down the direct drilling route to establish maize for the last four seasons, the 1,600-acre Dillington Estate near Ilminster, Somerset, has now opted for a Kultistrip to develop strip-tillage practices for the high-energy forage crop.
“We grow around 500 acres of maize, keeping 200 acres for our 350-cow dairy herd, with the remainder shared between a local AD plant and a neighbouring dairy farm,” explains farm manager Ollie Blackburn. “We’ve found that we do need to move some soil and deep loosen in preparation for precision planting. And this is where strip-tillage can provide benefits to growing maize.”
The six-row, 4.5m hydraulic folding Kultistrip arrived for the 2020 season, and gave opportunities to explore the principles of strip tillage. Working to 750mm row spacings, the Kultistrip moves a 150mm strip of soil, leaving 600mm of land untouched.
“If we don’t move much soil, weed growth will stay suppressed; cultivation costs could be reduced by 50%; and harvesting will be improved,” he adds. “Leaving ground untouched means we’ll keep a firm surface for the forager and trailers to run on. That means less mud on the road and easier harvesting conditions.”
The farm is currently trialling a variety of scenarios and crop conditions, to find a suitable set of establishment options that will create the best results across its varied soil types.
“We’re putting cover crops in after potatoes and ahead of maize, to keep soil biology alive,” he says. “Spring slurry goes on our maize ground, ahead of strip-tillage and drilling. And with glyphosate used in a pre-emergence tank mix, we can leave a mulch on the surface to retain moisture.”
“Depending on the season, if I have to make two or three repeated passes over the strips with the Kultistrip, it’s still going to be a considerable cost saving, compared to traditional deep cultivations,” says Ollie.
Running the Kultistrip at 11in deep, soil is loosened and the surface is stripped clean ahead of being crumbled and firmed by Farmflex rubber press wheels, ready for drilling. The farm’s older 6-row mechanical drill is supplemented by contractor services with a wider 8-row unit, with GPS and auto-steering used to provide pass-to-pass accuracy.
“Working at 11-12kph on a 150hp tractor, we can soon cover a lot of ground with the Kultistrip,” he says. “There’s a lot of untapped potential in this system, which could also help to establish maize after grass.”