Conservation tillage in UK arable cropping: Loddington [United Kingdom]

minimum tillage (Eng), non-inversion tillage (Engl); no-tillage (Eng); direct drilling (Eng)

technologies_985 - United Kingdom

Completeness: 67%

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:
SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Soil and water protection (EU-SOWAP)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust - United Kingdom

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:


1.5 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:

Surface cultivation of up to the top 10cm of soil but not complete inversion

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


machinery with discs or tines replace the plough for minimal cultivations of the soil. Equally crops may be established by no-tillage/ zero-tillage

Purpose of the Technology: (i) soil protection (ii) improved crop establishment particularly through the speeding up of of operations.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: appropriate machinery, soil condition and following crop all determine establishment. Maintenance: on an annual basis.

Natural / human environment: SOWAP ( project working with farmer to protect environment and maintain economic viability

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 0.00063 Km2.

This represents a 630m2 on-farm research and demonstration plot

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Comments (type of project, etc.):

From the USA where in te 1930's the 'dust-bowls' necessitated the development of soil conservation in intensive agriculture.

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)
  • legumes and pulses - beans
  • oilseed crops - sunflower, rapeseed, other
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 330 Longest growing period from month to month: Sep - Aug


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Water turbidity, compaction, erosion

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Compaction

Type of cropping system and major crops comments: wheat - oilseed rape - wheat - beans. Typically these will be winter-sown (Sept) crops rather than spring sown (March)

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

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover
  • minimal soil disturbance

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
  • A2: Organic matter/ soil fertility
  • A3: Soil surface treatment
A3: Differentiate tillage systems:

A 3.1: No tillage


Main measures: agronomic measures

Type of agronomic measures: cover cropping, mulching, mineral (inorganic) fertilizers, rotations / fallows, breaking compacted topsoil, zero tillage / no-till, minimum tillage, deep tillage / double digging

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
  • Wo: offsite degradation effects
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 type of degradation addressed: Wt: loss of topsoil / surface erosion

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Wo: offsite degradation effects, Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content, Pc: compaction

Main causes of degradation: other human induced causes (specify) (agricultural causes: focus on yields), labour availability (too much labour: attempting to maintain rural employment)

Secondary causes of degradation: education, access to knowledge and support services (lack of knowledge), insufficient time for farmers to consider the issu

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

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

Main goals: mitigation / reduction of land degradation

Secondary goals: prevention of 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: moderate

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: improvement of soil structure

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

Cover cropping
Material/ species: mustard or mustard-rye mixture
Remarks: drilled

Material/ species: crop residue
Quantity/ density: up to 5 t/
Remarks: quantity dependent on crop; dispersed over soil surface

Mineral (inorganic) fertilizers
Material/ species: NPK
Quantity/ density: 0.14 t/ha
Remarks: broadcast

Rotations / fallows
Material/ species: cereals/ broad-leaved crops
Remarks: alternate years

Breaking compacted topsoil
Remarks: as appropriate

Deep tillage / double digging
Remarks: as appropriate

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):

UK pounds (£)

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


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities


Additional info: - Year 1: consolidation: October / per crop - Year2: chop straw close to soil surface: harvest / annual - Year2: incorporate straw and prepare seed bed: September / annual - Year2: drill mustard-rye cover crop: September / annual - Year2: drill crop (2.5-4cm depth): March / once per crop - Year 3: chop straw close to soil surface: harvest / annual - Year3: incorporate straw and overcome compaction: October / per crop - Year3: additional cultivation: October / per crop - Year3: drill crop (2.5-4cm depth): October / once per crop - Year3: consolidation: October / per crop

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Year1: chop straw close to soil surface harvest / annual
2. Year1: drill mustard cover crop after harvest / annual
3. Year1: incorporate straw and cover crop September / per crop
4. Year1: additional cultivation October / per crop
5. Year 1: drill crop (4cm depth) (More in Annex 3) October / once per crop

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
Labour drill cover crop (year 1) ha 1.0 67.0 67.0 100.0
Labour drill cover crop (year 2) ha 1.0 128.0 128.0 100.0
Equipment Machine use ha 1.0 204.0 204.0 100.0
Equipment Machine hours (year 2) ha 1.0 67.0 67.0 100.0
Equipment Machine hours (year 3) ha 1.0 236.0 236.0 100.0
Plant material Seeds ha 1.0 68.0 68.0 100.0
Plant material Seeds (kg) cover crop (year 2) ha 1.0 68.0 68.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 838.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 1496.43

Machinery/ tools: Simba Solo, Cambridge rollers, Vaderstad drill

Per hectare of land where technology applied. The costs listed are for crop establishment costs only as all other costs (seed, fertiliser, pesticide) are identical to those incurred by other technologies (UNK1a, UNK1c) undertaken on this farm.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Equipment costs, slope (higher horse power required for steeper slopes), time taken for operation

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
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in 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.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Landforms: Hill slopes (some slopes < 8%)

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):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
  • fine/ heavy (clay)
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/infiltration is good
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:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Population density: 10-50 persons/km2

Annual population growth: 1% - 2%

50% of the land users are rich and own 60% of the land.
50% of the land users are average wealthy and own 40% of the land.

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

250 ha of cultivated arable land

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

  • Trust
  • Trust
  • Trust

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts

Income and costs

farm income

Comments/ specify:

Uncertain after only 3 years

Socio-cultural impacts

Impression of the technology

Comments/ specify:

Land manager enthusiastic about the technology

Ecological impacts


soil moisture


soil cover

Comments/ specify:

Residue and/or cover crop

soil loss

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

animal diversity

Comments/ specify:

Higher earthworm populations, improved soil microbiology

Other ecological impacts

Soil fertility


Input constraints

Comments/ specify:

Better range of herbicide options

Cost of cover crop seed

Comments/ specify:

Can negate the cost savings achieved through the lower crop establishment costs

Soil erosion locally

Comments/ specify:

Immediately after drilling cover crop

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

groundwater/ river pollution

Comments/ specify:

Reduced nutrient loss

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

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

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

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

Comments on spontaneous adoption: survey results

There is a little trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: Currently about 40% of the UK practices conservation tillage

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view

How can they be sustained / enhanced? good planning
improved biodiversity
improved soil organic matter
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
cost effectiveness

How can they be sustained / enhanced? increase are under cultivation (economy of scale)
improved soil quality

How can they be sustained / enhanced? continuing practice; retention of straw
increased soil biodiversity
improved water quality
increased work rate

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?
as above
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
potential for increased weed populations improved rotations, greater use of cover crops to compete with weeds
cost of cover crop seed and lack of appropriate species greater use will encourage lower cost and more speciesw research

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

Links and modules

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