Lead Shutes

Strip-Till Conversion Mellows Tough U.K. Soils

Turning to a modified strip-till setup that includes cover crops, Alex Shutes is saving time and money and seeing improved soil conditions with little or no yield drag.


Pictured Above: MAIN MACHINE. U.K. grower Alex Shutes replaced his aging Weaving tine drill with this 10-foot Sumo DTS3 drill. During seeding, a disc cuts through residue and into the soil surface and a ripper tine cultivates a strip of soil. Seed is placed behind it using a seeding coulter, followed by two covering discs that spread soil back over the seed. Rear press wheels consolidate the soil around the seed to help regulate seed depth

A few years ago as circumstances changed on his farm, Alex Shutes faced the task of raising several spring and winter crops in a tillage-intensive system as a one-man operation. It seemed like a daunting task.

That’s what drove the 28-year-old grower to give strip-till practices a try on his Essex, U.K. farm a few years ago. Shutes raises oilseed rape, wheat, winter and spring barley and spring beans in a 7-year rotation on his 500-acre farm, “with the mindset of not being afraid to chop and change crops depending on prices, weather or any other reason,” he says.

His first wheat crop is grown as a low-pesticide biscuit wheat destined for Heinz to produce baby-food products, and the second crop is for feed. Spring barley is grown for malting and hybrid winter barley is grown for feed. Spring beans are grown for human consumption.

Shutes says the historical rotation of wheat/wheat/oilseed rape, with barley seeded in a few places here and there, was lengthened to get different plant species growing successfully across the…

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