Multiple benefits from using Claydon Hybrid - Hertfordshire

Richard Taylor farms 1200 acres on the outskirts of Hitchin, growing a range of arable crops.

“Until the 1980s we had long favoured minimal cultivations. After burning the straw we would run a Shakaerator through the field, then disc and drill. Slugs and blackgrass were never a problem as the fire destroyed the slug eggs and weed seeds. In 1983 we had our best-ever harvest, the wheat yielding 4t/a, the barley 3t/a.

All that changed when straw burning was banned, forcing us to plough and power harrow to create a seedbed. The investment in machinery was enormous and on our very stony land the wear and tear on soil-engaging equipment was very high, so the cost of establishing crops soared. Blackgrass also became a major issue and slug populations increased substantially, so for agronomic reasons we had to change. When wheat dropped to £60/t it became uneconomic, increasing the need for a sustainable alternative.

After hearing about the Claydon system we visited Jeff Claydon’s farm in Suffolk to learn more about the system he had developed. In 2005 and 2006 we had a contractor drill 100 acres of oilseed rape and 100 acres of wheat with a Claydon V-drill to see how it performed under our conditions and the crops it produced. The Claydon System showed great promise, so in 2007 our contractor drilled half the farm with a new Claydon SR trailed drill, which was a further step forward because it left the soil much more level and produced higher yields. The following year we got him to drill the whole farm.

During that time we learned that on our soils, which range from gravel and chalk to London and Red clays, drilling in the right conditions is much more important than drilling to a set date. But because the Claydon Hybrid is so fast, we can afford to wait until conditions are right.

In addition to farming I operate a coach and bus hire company, Richard Taylor Travel, which runs 16 vehicles ranging from 59-seater luxury coaches to 16-seater minibuses. That keeps me very busy, hence the reason for initially using a contractor for drilling. My son Daniel joined the business in 2011, which took some of the pressure off, so we decided to buy our own 4.8m Claydon Hybrid to gain more control over when we drilled.

That year we used it to establish 1000 acres of winter wheat, winter barley and oats, with excellent results! In 2012, we drilled a slightly lower acreage, 900 acres of wheat and oats, as some of the land had been put back into grass, in line with our aim to return to move away from monoculture to a more ecologically-balanced system of mixed farming.

All the straw is baled so we set the combine header fairly low then run over the stubble at about 15kph with our 7.5m Claydon straw harrow to chit the weeds and destroy slug eggs. We then spray off any weeds which have germinated, including blackgrass, and repeat the process if necessary.

We drill at 10kph with the leading tines set 4"deep and the following A-share seeding tine running at 1.5". We have found that operating at 90 degrees to the tramlines results in faster germination due to better seed placement and drainage. We then run over the field with a set of zig-zag harrows to leave a really level surface, which helps the herbicides to work more effectively and makes it much easier when it comes to baling.

This year, we have 140 acres of winter barley, 360 acres of spring barley, 200 acres of oats and 120 acres of beans, having increased the area of grass for cattle, sheep and hay production. By using the Claydon System we are seeing very little difference in yields between winter and spring-sown crops. Last year our spring wheat yielded 3.5t/a, so we are moving towards much more spring sowing, which will help us to control blackgrass.

The 4.8m Claydon Hybrid drill is ideal for our farming situation; it’s really well built, very strong and had given no problems at all. The tyres are the only thing that have been an issue and that’s only because of our very stony land, so we’ll be switching to ones with a 10-ply rating to reduce the number of punctures.

The Claydon Hybrid is ideally matched to our 250hp JCB Fastrac 8250 and as far as I am concerned the combination represents the very best of British engineering. The Claydon drill has greatly reduced our establishment costs, made a huge difference to timeliness and is really beneficial in helping to reduce slug and blackgrass problems. Since we started using it we’ve not spread any slug pellets, the soil is becoming noticeably more friable every year and worm populations have increased dramatically!

What makes Claydon products unique is the fact that they are developed on a working farm, by a working farmer and have been proven in a real farming environment.

Richard in a field of spring beans, one of the best you will ever see.

Stones such as these make cultivations time consuming and very expensive, another good reason for minimising the amount of soil movement by using the Claydon System