Claydon share initial findings from cover crop trials during 2021 Virtual Open Day.

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The results of our work with cover crops over the last five years indicate that they can have a valuable role in certain situations. However, careful selection, establishment, and management is required for best results,” Jeff Claydon, CEO of Claydon Yield-o-Meter Limited stated during the company’s 2021 Virtual Open Day in June. 

“Claydon has long history of innovating, designing, and producing machinery which enables farmers to operate more efficiently, reduce costs and improve soil health. Because 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of Claydon Yield-o-Meter Limited we would have liked nothing more than to welcome visitors to our factory and arable farm in Suffolk,” Mr Claydon added.

“Unfortunately, the ongoing uncertainties and government restrictions surrounding COVID-19 meant that, for a second year, we had to film a Virtual Open Day instead of hosting an event for farmers. It’s not the same as meeting face-to-face but Dick Neale, Technical Manager of Hutchinsons, had plenty to say and we recorded some very interesting short videos which can be viewed on the Claydon website www.claydondrill.com/news/open-days-2021.”

“Our focus this year was cover crops, which have become a hot topic. We have experimented with them since 2016 because as farmers we wanted to assess how they might benefit our own soils and as a machinery manufacturer we needed first-hand experience and results to discuss with customers. 

“Like many other arable farms, our rotation has changed recently from being primarily winter wheat and oilseed rape to include more spring-sown and break crops. Our aim is to use land destined for spring drilling to reduce the weed burden and seed bank using Claydon Opti-Till® stubble management techniques and full-rate glyphosate before drilling. Ideally, we want the cover crop in the ground long enough to gain maximum advantage from the rooting structures, but not so long so that it generated excessive stick-like biomass. Our work shows that the ideal mix includes plants which degrade easily and are easily incorporated.

“Last autumn, we drilled cover crops on part of the 55ha destined for spring oats in 2021, the aim being to see if, and by how much, they improve yield and overall margin from following crops. If spending around £100/ha on seeds and establishment, then having to spray it off, we need clear agronomic and financial benefits, so the yield from each area will be measured.

“When used in combination with an effective stubble management programme, cover crops can provide significant agronomic, economic, and ecological benefits. They can improve soil structure and drainage and help to reduce erosion. They can increase soil biota and organic matter content.  They can provide food and shelter for insects and wildlife and increase biodiversity. Cover crops can also be of benefit by harnessing nutrients and suppressing weeds.  However, they are not a miracle cure that will correct deficiencies in poorly managed land. 

“After 20 years of using Claydon Opti-Till® to establish crops our soils are in exceptional condition, so cover crops are potentially of less benefit here than they might be on other farms where this is not the case. We will have to wait until harvest to see whether they generate sufficient improvements in crop yield or quality to justify their cost, which ironically is exactly why I invented the Yield-o-Meter, the first on-combine yield measurement system, 40 years ago.”

Despite the challenges of the past eighteen months, Claydon has gone from strength to strength. Employing over 50 staff, the progressive Suffolk-based and still family-owned manufacturer of crop establishment machinery is set to achieve record sales in 2021, with 50% of production exported to 35 countries, from Europe to New Zealand and Chile.

As a manufacturer of agricultural machinery and spare parts, Claydon is an essential business which is helping to ensure that the agricultural industry can keep supplying food to consumers and processors. The company has therefore been able to keep its design, manufacturing and service centre operating throughout the current pandemic whilst following government guidelines on safe working. With support from its global dealer network the company is at full capacity manufacturing its range of tractor-mounted and trailed Hybrid seed drills, Straw Harrows, TerraStar® light rotary cultivators and TerraBlade inter-row hoes which are marketed and sold by the company’s Commercial Team.

Farmers throughout the world are achieving excellent results using Claydon Opti-Till® products on all types of soil, in different climatic conditions and for all crops that can be air sown. Even on heavy clay soils the amount of fuel used is about 10% of that required for a plough-based system. Opti-Till® is used not just by arable producers but increasingly those in the dairy sector to establish crops like grass, maize, and stubble turnips in the most efficient way. Claydon has always emphasised the importance of soil health and raised awareness of how to improve it, so with talk of reducing CO2 to much lower levels and increasing carbon capture the company is well placed to respond to these requirements.

More information about the Claydon Opti-Till® System is available from Claydon dealers, the Claydon office on 01440 820327 or the Claydon website (www.claydondrill.com). The latest posts, photographs, and videos from Claydon and customers are on the Claydon Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Claydondrill). 

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.