With the autumn sowing season upon us and arable farmers ready to start off next year’s cropping cycle, we spoke with each of the 2019 AgriScot Scottish Arable Farm of the Year finalists to find out their choice of sowing equipment and why it works for them.

The 2019 Scottish Arable Farm of the Year winner, John Weir, from Lacesston Farm, at Gateside, relies on an Amazone Centaya power harrow-mounted seed drill to help him during the busy sowing season. Farming a total of 560 acres of arable ground, which is comprised of winter barley, wheat, oilseed rape, oats and spring barley, John also finds the time to offer a contract sowing service.

“This is my second Amazone seed drill that I’ve used. My previous one lasted me 11 seasons and I like the brand as the machines are very straightforward, reliable and simple to operate,” commented John. “I’ve recently upgraded to the more modern Centaya drill, due to it’s compatibility with technology, which plays a big part in the arable enterprise here at Lacesston.

“I’m working with GPS auto-shut off, where the drill automatically turns off once I approach the end of the field. This is a fantastic feature as it reduces the chance of seed wastage and there is no overlapping on end-rigs.”

John added that he is operating a variable seed rate, rather than just a flat rate of seeds due to the difference in soil type across the farm, ranging from a sandy loam to a medium loam. “I wanted a simple grain-only seed drill that works well over our varied soil profiles. The Amazone drill is not too aggressive on the ground and is leaving us a level and firm seedbed – exactly what I’m looking for,” John stated.

Anstruther-based arable farmer, Craig Peddie, from Cornceres, has ensured that he only works with the best – he manufactured his own seed drill! “After studying engineering at university, I decided that I wanted to utilise my skillset and build my own drill, which would allow me to tailor a machine to the spec that I was requiring,” said Craig.

“Due to the medium clay loam that we operate on, it was important that the drill was long lasting and strong, so I have manufactured a direct drill that goes straight into stubble ground. It is comprised of deep loosening legs at the front to help break up compaction and band coulters behind it to push the seed into the loosened soil. I also installed a tyre packer which consolidates the soil and helps produce a good soil to seed contact in the ground, whilst also retaining moisture,” he added.

With Craig’s project taking a total of five winters to perfect, it seems to have been worth it after the farm has saved a fortune on machinery and diesel costs. However, with the farm totalling to 500 acres of wheat, oilseed rape, barley and beans, Craig also owns a second seed drill – a Lemken Solitair in combination with a power harrow – so that the correct drill can be matched to needs and conditions.

“We have a good dealer, KM Duncan Agricultural Engineering, who provide us a great service and they recommended the Lemken drill due to it’s reliability and accuracy. We have had this drill for 12 years and it is still going strong!” Craig added.

“Our cultivation system is split, with 40% of the ground being ploughed and the Lemken Combi-drill being used, and the remaining 60% being direct drilled using the home-made seed drill,” he stated. “However, half of the ground that is worked with the home-made drill receives a 5m light-duty cultivator over the stubble. This works the top surface, creating a little tillage before we bring in the direct drill.”

Farm manager, David Aglen, of Balbirnie Home Farms, in Fife, has found that the flexibility of a variety of drilling options works best. Farming a total of 800 hectares of arable crop alongside 200 hectares of grassland, the farm relies on the John Deere 750A seed drill and a variety of broadcasting attachments to cover the busy sowing season.

"The John Deere 750A is our main drill and we use that for all of our combinable crops, including wheat, barley, oats, forage rye and spring beans, as well as for our forage crops," David commented.

"This drill is perfect for our requirements as it is capable of direct drilling into stubble ground and into cover crops, without cultivation, as well as drilling into lightly cultivated ground."

The Balbirnie team also uses cheaper sowing alternatives for sowing cover crops – one of which is broadcasting over established crops.

"We fit an air drill on the sprayer, which broadcasts the seed into the ground via 14 outlets, spread every two metres along a 28-metre-long boom. We broadcast over an existing growing crop, so that once we have harvested the standing crop, the cover crop will already have started to germinate," David added.

The other option we use for broadcast sowing cover crops is via the Vaderstad Carrier – a machine used for cultivating the ground – where the air drill is secured and the seed is planted whilst the seed bed is being produced," David said. "This seems to work well as the seed is spread in front of the roller," he added.

"We don't have a fixed cultivation system – we try to keep it as little as possible. If we can’t direct drill the ground then we will use a shallow cultivation before the drill, as we usually only work the ground up to two inches deep, unless there is a compaction problem. Our methods and our machinery are working well for us and we are getting the best out of the ground we have," David concluded.