Meet Jim Bullock. This no-tiller from Worcestershire, England, who also works as a farm consultant, believes that no-tilling is no longer an idealistic conservation idea in Europe, it’s reality. His switch to no-tilling on land his family has farmed for more than 485 years reveals what’s been happening on the no-till scene in Europe.
The United Kingdom set-aside program requires that 10 percent of a farmer’s land be kept fallow for the grower to receive subsidies, so Bullock can work only 750 of his 850 acres. His fields average 17 acres in size, and the soil is heavy clay loam. Rainfall averages 28 inches annually. He owns a third of the land, with the rest either share-cropped or rented.
“Although we used to successfully no-till in the 1970s and ’80s, we relied on burning the straw,” Bullock recalls. “But then straw burning was banned, which put a halt to the system using the drills available to us at the time.”
Eventually, he says, a switch back to no-till was necessitated by economics, soil erosion, logistics and climate changes. He started looking at how no-till succeeded elsewhere, and a visit to Kansas and Oklahoma showed Bullock the methods of modern no-tilling.
“They were drilling doublecrop soybeans into wheat stubble, with the combine still in the field,” he says. “I thought, if it can work under these conditions, with this amount of trash, it can work for us at home.”
Bullock has found success with his new no-till program…