Thomas McGuinness, who farms at Balltwaltha near Dublin, received the award for achieving 12.35 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) from his wheat, 63 per cent of its potential maximum yield of 19.6t/ha. Producing 1,800 acres of winter wheat, barley, oilseed rape and spring barley, Mr McGuinness moved away from a traditional crop establishment system in favour of the Claydon Drill System in 2012 after visiting the Suffolk arable farm of Jeff Claydon, the system’s designer. Having subsequently purchased a 3m Claydon drill he used it that autumn to establish his entire cropped acreage for the 2013 harvest.
“With just myself and my son full-time on the farm, I had no doubt that the Claydon system was the way forward. It now allows us to establish all of our crops with just one man, one machine and one tractor. We bale all the straw to leave the field clean, use a 7.5m Claydon Straw Harrow to create a stale seedbed and after the weeds have germinated we spray them off with glyphosate, then go in with the Claydon drill.
“The system has saved us an enormous amount of time and money, as well as giving much greater peace of mind, because timeliness is much improved. Weather was previously always a threat in the autumn, but now we start drilling in mid-September and are finished by mid-October, so the crops are drilled at the right time, under the right conditions, which is essential to maximise yields.”
Claydon drills use a patented seeding technique which allows farmers to establish many different types of crops direct into stubble, min-tilled or fully-cultivated soils. Now used all over the world, the Claydon system has become the most sustainable one-pass seeding technique in Europe and can be used year-on-year to attain above-average yields, avoiding unnecessary and expensive pre-cultivations, claims the comopany.
The cost of establishing crops using the Claydon system is approximately one-third that of using a full cultivations programme, it explains, and half that of conventional minimum tillage. A further significant benefit is that the Claydon drill’s simple, yet effective two-tine system encourages the very deep, complex rooting structures to develop, which leads to stronger, healthier crops with improved yield prospects. With minimal moving and wearing parts, Claydon drills also provide easy, low-cost operation and servicing.
Convinced of the Claydon system’s benefits, Mr McGuinness recently part-exchanged his original 3m Claydon drill for a larger 4.8m version, which will be used behind a John Deere 7930 tractor to drill up to 100 acres per day.
Noel Furlong of Furlong Agri, distributor for Claydon Drills in Ireland, says that the uptake of the system has been very enthusiastic, driven by the need to reduce crop establishment costs. Farming 500 acres of his own, together with another 800 acres on contract, Mr Furlong purchased a 3m Claydon Hybrid drill for his own use three years ago and quickly realised that a large potential market existed for the system in Ireland.
“The time and cost savings from using the Claydon system are enormous compared with conventional establishment and timeliness is much improved,” Mr Furlong states. “The other big benefit which I have found is that the soil structure on my farm is far better, which means that I can get on the land at any time of the year to apply agrochemicals and fertilisers.”
ADAS, the organisation behind the YEN project, says UK cereal crops have a large unfulfilled potential for growth and grain formation. It points out that the biophysical potential of wheat in the UK could be close to 20t/ha, but that while leading farms and research trials in the UK can regularly hit 12t/ha the average commercial farm produces less than 8t/ha, with no increase for over 15 years. The YEN Awards recognise the achievement of farmers who achieve the highest grain yield and get closest to the potential maximum potential yield for their land.