How to pick a drilling date with Farmer, Ed Green, on his 500ha farm in East Anglia

April 5th, 2022

Ed Green, an arable farmer from East Anglia discusses how flexibility has benefitted him when it comes to picking a drilling date.

Drilling is one of the most crucial periods in the arable calendar as a successful drilling can help with robust crop establishment.

However, in preparation for drilling, a number of factors need to be considered including weather, the machinery used, and importantly, timings.

These factors can make it difficult for farmers to know when to drill, but in this blog we discuss how Ed Green, an East Anglian grower has found flexibility to be the best approach for drilling.

Farm profile

Farmer: Ed Green

Location: 500 ha farm in East Anglia

Crops: Predominately cereals as well as sugar beet and potatoes

Soil type: Silty clay loam soil

Reducing tillage

Ed’s system used to encompass a number of steps prior to drilling including ploughing, heavy pressing a couple of times, cultivating the soils again in front of a combination drill, all before being able to get the seeds in the ground.

As this approach involved a number of steps and a range of kit, it was causing Ed multiple challenges for labour and was also costly.

He decided a change was needed so went to a machinery show and found Sumo machinery which fitted in well with his system and would help him to reduce the use of machinery and tillage.

After changing approach, he first started using a second hand 3 meter mounted DTS strip till drill and was impressed with how well it worked with the soil on farm.

Last season, he decided to invest in new machinery and brought in a 4 meter DD direct drill tool bar and mounted tank and he now bases his system around this piece of kit.

Ed’s approach to drilling

As Ed has changed his machinery, this has meant his approach to drilling has also altered.

This year, Ed was able to leave some stubble in the fields after harvest, and seed were drilled straight into the soil. Previously this is not a practice that would have been carried out.

In other fields, soils were slightly cultivated to relieve any compaction present and then they were drilled

2021 is the first full year with the new drill and equipment, so they’re still in the experimental phase but already positive benefits have been noticed.

Previously labour and time constraints were causing challenges for the farm. Around harvest and drilling, Ed was unable to carry out all the various tasks himself and therefore had to source labour, which was costly.

With the new approach, there is a reduced need to bring in extra help around drilling and savings have also been made on fuel and maintenance.

Picking a drilling date

With Ed’s new approach, he is able to be much more flexible when it comes to picking drilling dates.

Cultivating less and having fewer tasks to carry out prior to drilling reduces the time it takes to prepare and widens the window for drilling.

With less labour needed and fewer times constraints, Ed can pick his drilling days as and when he wants, as he isn’t bound to only drilling on the days where he has help.

In previous years, Ed has not been able to get drilling started until mid-October due to poor weather and time constraints.

However, in the better weather in the autumn of 2021, Ed was able to be flexible, and drill much earlier in September in good weather which helped crops establish well.

Ed’s top tips for drilling

  • Be open minded – when trying a new approach, it’s easy to second guess yourself, but it’s important to trust that what you are doing works and be open to change
  • Don’t be scared to cultivate – if you need to cultivate to relieve compaction or if it suits your soil type, don’t be afraid to carry out some shallow cultivation
  • Work by a field by field approach – a blanket approach to drilling and cultivation might not be suitable for every field and crop, so you should plan your approach for what’s best for the particular location and crop


To read other case studies from Sumo customers click here