Non-inversion tillage in UK arable cropping; Loddington [United Kingdom]

minimum tillage (English), conservation tillage (English)

technologies_986 - United Kingdom

Completeness: 65%

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 the top 10cm of soil but not complete inversion

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


machinery with discs or tines replace the plough.

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

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

Natural / human environment: farmer working to protect environment and maintain rural employment

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 1.46 km2.

This represents 60% of the total arable area on the farm

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

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



  • Annual cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - other
  • cereals - wheat (spring)
  • legumes and pulses - beans
  • oilseed crops - sunflower, rapeseed, other
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 330Longest 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

  • minimal soil disturbance

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

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: Pc: compaction

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Wt: loss of topsoil / surface erosion, Wo: offsite degradation effects, Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content

Main causes of degradation: other human induced causes (specify) (agricultural causes), education, access to knowledge and support services (lack of knowledge)

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: high

Main technical functions: control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard

Secondary technical functions: control of raindrop splash, control of concentrated runoff: impede / retard, improvement of ground cover, increase in organic matter, increase of infiltration, increase / maintain water stored in soil, improvement of soil structure, increase in soil fertility

Material/ species: crop residue
Quantity/ density: 5 t/ha
Remarks: 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: localised

Minimum tillage
Remarks: using discs and tines

Breaking compacted subsoil
Remarks: localised

Deep tillage / double digging
Remarks: localised

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:


4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Year1: chop straw as low to the ground as possible at harvest (usually August) / annual
2. Year1: incorporate straw to 10cm depth, though this is dependent on density of straw September / per crop
3. Year1: additional cultivation early October / per crop
4. Year1:drilling (4cm depth) early October / once per crop
5. Year1: consolidation (more in Annex 3) early 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
Equipment Machine use ha 1.0 204.0 204.0 100.0
Equipment Machine hours (year 2) ha 1.0 184.0 184.0 100.0
Equipment Machine hours (year 3) ha 1.0 236.0 236.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 624.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 1114.29

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

Per hectare of land where technology applied. The costs represent the total crop establishment costs (machinery + labour) for this technology. Other costs eg seeds, fertiliser, are not included as these are identical to those incurred by other technologies (UNK1b) at this farm. These costs are related to the prevailing conditions - crop type, state of the soil, climate etc. Crop establishment costs by ploughing were: 224 (year1), 204 (year2), 263 (year3)

Additional info: - Year2: chop straw as low to the ground as possible: after harvest / annual - Year2:incorporate straw to 10cm depth, though this is dependent on density of straw: September / per crop - Year2: additional cultivation: March / per crop - Year2: drilling (2.5-4cm depth): March / once per crop - Year3:chop straw as low to the ground as possible: after harvest / annual - Year3: incorporate straw and relieve compaction of soil: October / per crop - Year3: additional cultivation: October / per crop - Year3: drill (2.5-4cm depth): October / once per crop - Year3: consolidation: October / once per crop

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), presence of weeds (higher herbicide costs),

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.

Off-farm income specification: The time saved by practising non-inversion tillage (52 minutes/ha) allows the land manager to undertake contracted work on other farms

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


crop production

Comments/ specify:

In good (weather) conditions, yields from ploughed fields often better

Income and costs

farm income

Other socio-economic impacts

timeliness of operations

Comments/ specify:

Speed of working allows larger acreage to be managed

Input constraints

Comments/ specify:

herbicide resistance is increasing in a number of weed species therefore a better range of herbicide options required

Window of operation

Comments/ specify:

Can be more narrow than when ploughing

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

excess water drainage

Comments/ specify:

Better infiltration of water


soil moisture

Comments/ specify:

Better germination in dry years

soil cover

Comments/ specify:

Crop residue

soil loss

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Better soil structure

Other ecological impacts

Maintenance of rural employment

Comments/ specify:

enabled the farm to just about support the land manager and farm worker

Soil fertility

Comments/ specify:

Higher organic matter levels

Biodiversity enhancement

Comments/ specify:

Higher bird and invertebrate numbers

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

reliable and stable stream flows in dry season


downstream flooding


downstream siltation


groundwater/ river pollution

Comments/ specify:

Fertilisers and pesticides not transported with eroded soil, better soil structure + biodiversity slow + improve metabolism of chemicals in the soil

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

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

slightly negative

Long-term returns:

slightly positive

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

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

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 40% of UK farmers practice non-inversion tillage mainly for economic reasons

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Timely crop establishment + good work rate

How can they be sustained / enhanced? good planning
Lower costs

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Increased acreage to spread costs
Increased contractor income

How can they be sustained / enhanced? as above
improved soil structure - higher organic matter and provision of a better seed bed to drill into

How can they be sustained / enhanced? continue with practice
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
cost effectiveness

How can they be sustained / enhanced? increase ares under cultivation (economy of scale)
increased work rate
improved soil quality

How can they be sustained / enhanced? continuation of current soil management principles
increased biodiversity

How can they be sustained / enhanced? price premium for biodiversity-friendly products
improved water quality

How can they be sustained / enhanced? no option. The EU Water Framework Directive requires watercourses to be of good status by 2015

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?
narrow weather window drill non-inversion tillage fields first
grass weeds crop rotation; new herbicide modes of action
slug management monitoring slug populations
large acreage required to justify cost of machinery consider not cropping headlands
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Grass weed control New herbicide modes of action, more integrated management options
Untidy appearance of field (due to crop residue) Familiarity with the technology

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Guide to managing crop establishment, SMI

Available from where? Costs?

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Improved soil management for agronomic and environmental gain, SMI

Available from where? Costs?

Title, author, year, ISBN:

ECAF website

Available from where? Costs?

Links and modules

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