We don’t plough the fields and scatter any more with a Mzuri Protil

With greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints climbing up the farming agenda, plough-free crop establishment is attracting greater interest on Scottish farms.

Berwickshire farmer Neil White
Berwickshire farmer Neil White

And such a system was one of the main attractions when Lothian and Border arable farmers ventured beyond the Zoom screen last week during a visit to a Duns farm using alternative approaches to maximise its sustainability credentials.

More than sixty grain growers attended a meeting of NFU Scotland’s regional arable group when it held a meeting at Neil White’s Greenknowe farm in Berwickshire last week.

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Over the last seven years, White has been working to leave his plough in the shed, switching instead to strip-till practices and direct drilingl crops and cover crops into the soil using a Mzuri Protil.

He informed the group that the process was an ongoing learning exercise to identify what could be done for best results but White shared his findings from the last few years.

Revealing that to date he had increased the organic matter in his soils by around a fifth - from 3.3 per cent to almost 4 per cent he said there had also been a noticeable improvement in the workability, water and machine carrying capacity of his soil.

“When I started, I used the Mzuri Protil on 20 per cent of my land and the remaining 80 per cent was conventional tillage. Over the years, I have learnt a great deal and gained confidence and now it is entirely the other way around; in fact, nearer 90 per cent direct drilled with the Mzuri and 10 per cent ploughed before planting.

And he said that the recent hike in fertiliser prices meant that the machine’s ability to place fertiliser directly beside the crop was a great advantage - not only to the crop, but also to his bottom line.

The other very noticeable difference seen on the farm’s soils had been the abundance of earthworms.

Speaking after the meeting, Lothian and Border regional chair Debbie Playfair said: “Being back on farm and hearing and seeing someone’s experiences at crop root level is invaluable and a very much under-rated resource. Neil admits that he did a great deal of research before starting down the Mzuri track, and he kindly shared his experiences with us, the good and the not so good.

Stating that it was great to be out and about again, she announced that the next Lothian and Borders members’ arable meeting would be held on Thursday 2 June at Mertoun Estate, Ploughlands Farm, St Boswells when Jack Parsons the manager would give an overview of the farm’s operations.

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“We also welcome Dr Keith Dawson, Director of the Central Plains Group, Ukraine who will be joining us and sharing his thoughts on the outcome and impact of the tragic situation in that country.”

Playfair added that a collection would be taken on the day and every penny would go to help refugees and military with food, clothing and other support.”

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