The leading tine drill - the heart of the Claydon Opti-Till® System

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The Claydon Opti-Till® System, is a holistic approach to crop establishment which delivers consistently good, high yielding crops at low cost, providing maximum profitability.   At the centre of Opti-Till® is the Claydon direct strip Hybrid drill, with its patented leading tine technology. 

How does the Claydon leading tine concept work and how does it achieve those results?

The leading tine can be adjusted to a depth of between 0 for low disturbance and 15cm (6 inches) for deep rooting crops like oilseed rape. The second tine can be adjusted via the depth wheels to put the seed in as shallow or deep as necessary.

1. Centrally mounted depth wheels give very accurate seed placement as they run on undisturbed soil between the rows and do not run over or cap the seeded area.
2. Stone protected leading tines have a breakout force of 600kg.  This is more than twice that of many other direct drills and allows the Hybrid drill to break through the ground, lifting and aerating it whilst creating a drainage tract and space for the roots to grow deep and strong with ease.
3. Robust, sprung seeding tines keep a highly accurate and constant seed depth, flowing through the soil lifted by the leading tines and cultivating it whilst only moving for a large stone.
4. Levelling boards and tines leave a superbly level finish covering the seedlings in a perfect soil plant pot with drainage and space for root development.
5. Fertiliser can be placed below the seed (front tine) or above the seed (rear tine) with the standard tine set up. With the twin tine option, fertiliser can be placed below the seed only.

The Claydon leading tine design is protected by patent GB 2 400 296 B and EP(UK) 2 051 576 B2.  Patents are also in existence in other countries.


Zonal cultivations - the benefits of rooting and seeding zone stimulation

1. The leading tine cultivates zonally alleviating local compaction, aerating the soil and improving drainage.
2. The majority of worm burrows are left undisturbed safeguarding their numbers, aiding drainage.
3. Plant roots are left largely undisturbed adding to the soil biota improving soil structure.


1. The leading tine creates fissures in the soil (shown in blue) creating the ideal environment for strong rooting.  Root development before the winter slow-down is key to yield optimisation on any given hectare. 
Organic matter depletion is minimised due to nominal soil disturbance. Soil nitrogen is also preserved.


1. Friable tilth allows fast, strong rooting. Roots can quickly harvest nutrients and moisture.
2. Emergence is unhindered due to excellent soil structure. The soil can absorb heavy rainfall without capping.
3. Early vigour is ensured providing strong establishment.
4. The seed is sown in bands so crops utilise more of the growing area, maximising their moisture and nutrient take-up.
5. The seed is spread across the working area of the seeding share, allowing more air and light into the crop improving photosynthesis as the plant grows.
6. Stubble helps keep snow in place and settled on the seeded area. This helps insulate the crop. As temperature rises snow melts and drains easily through the soil profile.
This area warms quicker due to the darker colour of the soil.


1. Targeted cultivation ensures soil density is retained over at least 50% of the field. This supports following field traffic.
2. Roots and worm burrows are left undisturbed providing drainage and aeration.
3. Tramline depths are kept to a minimum.
4. Fields are left level due to the design of the Hybrid drill.
5. Soil density is consistent over large areas of the soil.
6. Capillaries are left intact facilitating water movement through the soil throughout the growing season.
Drilling in bands provides an ideal environment for worms to thrive. Their action benefits soil health in many ways.


The design of the Claydon Hybrid drill, with its unique patented leading tine technology, makes it a versatile drill which can be used in all soils, in all climates, all over the world. 

Drilling in Indre departement, France.



What are the environmental benefits over other methods of crop establishment?

Conventional full cultivations and min-till systems can over-work the soil and destroy its structure.  This harms worm populations and worm activity. It also reduces the soil’s ability to drain water away in wet weather and increases moisture losses in dry weather. Starving the crop’s roots of essential air and nutrients also reduces yield potential and increases the cost-per-tonne of production.  The risks from flooding and soil erosion are much higher. Similarly, the use of min-till systems and disc-type direct drills can result in soils which drain poorly and flood easily, creating crops with poor rooting structures and low yield potential.

When converting to Claydon Opti-Till® should farmers expect drops in yield for the first couple of years?

It is not our experience to see a yield decrease where soil is in a reasonable condition.  We have seen an average 10% increase in yields on Claydon-drilled farms, as have customers who start with soils which are in fair condition, free of compaction, drainage or weed issues.

Is every farm suitable for Opti-Till®?

Providing that the soil is drained and is reasonably sound and work is done when conditions are suitable, then every farm should be suitable.

What is the cost of ownership compared to Min-Till or a plough-based system, regarding fuel, wearing metal reduction of power in future years?

The cost of the Claydon Opti-Till System is much lower than with min-till and dramatically less than with a plough-based system. Instead of using 150-180 litres of fuel/ha to establish a crop using a plough-based system, with Opti-Till we use 10-15 litres/ha (average 12l/ha), which includes stubble management and drilling. The enormous savings made allow investment in other inputs and other areas of the farm that really make a difference.

The cost of wearing metal is very low, at just £3-£4/ha. As the soil becomes healthier and in better condition the amount of power required to work it and cost of wearing metal continues to decline.

The power requirement is just 50hp per metre for Claydon Hybrid drills, so output is much higher and fuel use is dramatically lower. On the Claydon farms we use a 300hp tractor to pull our 6m Claydon Hybrid drill, and because of the very high work-rate the tractor clocks up less than 100 hours per year to establish our 850 acres of crops, which gives us time to do a lot of contract drilling.

Should the ground be prepared, using a rake or very shallow cultivator?

This depends on soil condition and seasonal conditions. The Claydon Straw harrow can produce a shallow micro tilth up to 30mm deep which destroys slugs and slug eggs and encourages volunteers and weeds to chit, controlling them effectively. This micro tilth is usually more than adequate to cover the seed, and creates a warm, humid environment around it to encourage rapid crop establishment.

The Opti-Till® System does just enough to make direct drilling work without the need to subsoil, as with a low-disturbance drill system, or to correct damage from the sedimentation of over-worked soils where min-till or plough-based establishment is used. Doing just enough cultivation at the point of drilling retains the soil structure, provides the crop with the ideal growing environment and gives it the strongest possible start. This allows the soil to start improving and the sooner this process begins the more quickly it will do so.

Should the field be rolled or does the drills press wheel consolidate the seed bed enough?

Using press wheels on the drill or rolling separately immediately after drilling, particularly on heavy soils which are wet, pushes the air out of the soil and can cause the particles to stick together. We therefore recommend letting the soil ‘haze over’ for 24-48 hours after drilling and then rolling or harrowing.  This approach delivers perfect results.

With a large amount of plant residue, does this not provide a breeding ground for plant diseases?

No. When soil is biologically healthy and you have created a high worm population and high level of worm activity these issues diminish greatly, as the worms quickly take surface material down into the soil to use as their own food source.  Since using the Opti-Till® System on the Claydon farms we have seen much lower levels of plant diseases than on farms which still plough due to the much higher levels of soil biological activity.

What is the future of Strip-Till if glyphosate is banned? Are there any practical mechanical weed control methods?

The loss of glyphosate would make life difficult for any farming operation. The Claydon Opti-Till System has a clear advantage as weeds and volunteers can be managed  mechanically using the Straw Harrow or TerraStar, reducing the reliance on glyphosate. This is more environmentally beneficial, and cheaper than using multiple applications of glyphosate between crops.

We also use the Claydon TerraBlade inter-row hoe, which is a very low-cost, mechanical method of controlling weeds in combinable, band-sown crops. It is an additional weapon in our weed control armoury at a time when the efficacy of some herbicides is decreasing and their cost increasing.