- Equipment tips
- Seed rate and treatment tips
- Soil and seedbed tips
- Drilling checklist
Drilling is perhaps the most important day in the life of any crop. Get it right, and with quick germination and even establishment of plants you set the crop off with its maximum potential intact.
But setting the drill up properly takes care and skill, from choosing the right settings for black-grass control to making sure you handle treated seed correctly. Read below for our tips to make your crops have the best possible start for the best finish.
All drills have pros and cons. Disc drills cause less disturbance than tine but do less to restructure soil if compaction is an issue. Adjust cultivator drills give lower levels of surface disturbance.
Keep tyre pressures below 0.8 bar to help prevent significant compaction caused by the drill tractor. This is particularly important with low disturbance drills on wetter, and/or looser ground.
Up seed rates by 30-50% to deal with grass-weeds, and/or consider variable seed rates on specific fields, or areas within fields.
Give more flexibility to drilling dates by protecting your crop from pests and seed-borne diseases.
Aim for a fine consolidated seedbed. Make sure stale seedbeds are prepared with higher disturbance than the final drill pass.
Seed needs to be covered with a good fine tilth, ideally rolled for better consolidation which will improve emergence, pre-em, performance and slug control.
✔️ Wear appropriate personal equipment (PPE) including gloves and coverall
✔️ Always read the seed tag
✖️ Don't broadcast or autocast any treated seed
✔️ Handle bags of seeds with care – abrasion results in dust; damage many result in spilt seed
✔️ Check that the drill has been properly maintained, calibrated and cultivators set up properly
✔️ Critically assess the prepared seedbed; does it have stony, cloddy or trashy areas which might limit the coverage of the seed?
✖️ Don't tip the dust into the drill – leave it in the seed bag
✔️ Keep bags secure, and dispose of waste seed bags and their contents safely
✔️ Clean up spills immediately – do not fill drills on grassy areas as spills will be harder to clear up
✔️ Ensure the drill will not drop seed when transported or when lifting in and out of work at headlands
✔️ Ensure the drill (especially if precision vacuum drill) does not vent into the air – if necessary fit an air deflector system
✔️ After you've finished drilling, check fields carefully – particularly headlands and turning areas to ensure seed is well covered. If any seed is exposed, cover it
Making sure the seed has good seed-to-soil contact is essential with direct drills as there is little or no seedbed preparation. Forward speeds are also important as pulling a drill through can create fissures and cracking in the soil.
Cultivator drills are a straightforward way to produce a seedbed and establish a crop but the level of disturbance can be dangerous for black-grass control. But many cultivator drills are adjustable, discs and tines can be removed or lifted up to leave a lower disturbance option.
Disc drills are a good option for low disturbance drilling but they do have drawbacks with residues and wet soils. On wet ground, discs can smear soil and pin straw into the seedbed reducing seed to soil contact.