Direct drilling for UK arable cropping systems: Normanton [United Kingdom]

no-tillage (eng); zero-tillage (eng); non-inversion (eng)

technologies_982 - United Kingdom

Completeness: 73%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Soil and water protection (EU-SOWAP)

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Crop establishment with minimal soil disturbance

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Direct drilling replacing the plough. Residue from previous crop retained and new crop planted with minimal soil disturbance.

Purpose of the Technology: cost and labour reduction.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: good residue managament without burning; appropriate equipment for soil type.

Natural / human environment: weather, soil, farmer attitude

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment


United Kingdom

Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:



Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 0.245 Km2.
Single farm of 316ha

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • during experiments/ research
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Canada + UK

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - wheat (winter)
  • oilseed crops - sunflower, rapeseed, other
  • root/tuber crops - sugar beet
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 330, Longest growing period from month to month: Sept - Jul


Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Lack of organic matter which is making soils more difficult to work

Type of cropping system and major crops comments: Wheat - oilseed rape -wheat - sugar beet. However the rotation is flexible. It should be noted that only the combinable crops (wheat and oilseed rape) are direct drilled

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • minimal soil disturbance

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A2: Organic matter/ soil fertility
  • A3: Soil surface treatment
A3: Differentiate tillage systems:

A 3.2: Reduced tillage (> 30% soil cover)


Type of agronomic measures: manure / compost / residues, zero tillage / no-till

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
physical soil deterioration

physical soil deterioration

  • Pc: compaction

Main causes of degradation: poverty / wealth (economic viability), labour availability (loss of labour)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high
Technical knowledge required for land users: high

Main technical functions: control of raindrop splash
Secondary technical functions: control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard, improvement of ground cover, increase of surface roughness, increase in organic matter, improvement of soil structure, increase in soil fertility

Manure / compost / residues
Material/ species: crop residue
Quantity/ density: 4 t/ha
Remarks: chopped and spread evenly

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Spray with glyphosate after harvest and ~1 week before drilling / annual
2. Drilling 6-8weeks after harvest / annual
3. Harrow (up to 2.5cm deep) immediately after drilling / annual
4. Roll immediately after harrowing / annual

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Equipment Machine use ha 1.0 73.0 73.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 73.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 130.36

Machinery/ tools: John Dale direct drill, roller, harrow
This amount is for crop establishment costs only and may vary depending on crop type, state of the soil and climate. The cost includes machinery + labour. In comparison, the crop establishment costs for a conventionally mouldboard ploughed system is $239.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

soil moisture

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility is medium
Soil drainage/infiltrations is good. Also medium (ranked 2) and poor (ranked 3)
Soil water storage capacity is high

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • > 50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Population density: < 10 persons/km2
Annual population growth: negative
25% of the land users are rich.
50% of the land users are average wealthy.
25% of the land users are poor.

Off-farm income specification: Recent diversification to a great extent than neighbours

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha

316ha farm

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • leased

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Income and costs

farm income



Comments/ specify:

Only when it's wet in the autumn

Other socio-economic impacts

Preparation for new legislation

Socio-cultural impacts

conflict mitigation


Improved livelihoods and human well-being

Comments/ specify:

Improved quality of life and employment since their is more time

Acceptance by society

Comments/ specify:

Regarded with suspicion by neighbours, 'untidy' fields

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

excess water drainage

Comments/ specify:

Variable, lack of infiltration at surface


soil moisture

Comments/ specify:

Positive in dry conditions, can be excessive in wet conditions

soil cover

Comments/ specify:

Crop residue. However wet residue can impede crop germination

soil loss

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

animal diversity

Comments/ specify:

Increasing bird populations

Other ecological impacts

Grass weed management time


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

downstream siltation


6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

very positive

Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology


100% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support
1 land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

There is a little trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology
Comments on adoption trend: Direct drilling is still regarded with some suspicion in fthe UK, partly due to wet conditions, grass weed problems and machniery. However, economic pressures and changes to legislation may increase the trend

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
reduced work load
improvements to soil condition and the environment
improved trafficability (on the land)
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
improved soil cover and fertility
improved biodiversity above and below ground
reduced work load
good fit in current (and future) policy environment
farmers become better managers of their entire farming system

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
occurrence of rain after drilling (more susceptible to wet conditions at this time compared to ploughing) ability to loosen the soil if required
higher management imput better advice
higher cost of sprays better rotations and other cutural methods of managing weeds
untidy fields research, demonstration and advice
lack of knowledge and experience research, demonstration and advice
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
weed management better rotations, better fertiliser placement, better targetting of susceptible stages in weed lifecycle
lack of information more on-farm research + demonstration for now and the future especially to develop economically viable rotations, more applicable herbicide labelling
farmers conservatism more demonstrations
susceptibility to wet autumns (coping with wet residue) more reliable weather forecasts
weather dependent

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with land users
When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:

Controlled traffic farming project


Title/ description:

John Dale drills


Title/ description:

SOWAP project


Links and modules

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