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Future cultivation and planting

Updated: 21/02/2009

Source: Roger Chesher, UK Horticulture Week - 20 February 2009

There have been many advances in ploughing, cultivation, drilling and planting over the years.

What can we expect in the near future ?

We can guess at larger, faster, stronger and higher precision machinery. But developments are often tailored to the needs of specific crops and the scale of production.


Shaun Taylor - Burdens Group UK , believes the EU decision to ban key plant protection products will have a big impact on machinery usage in the UK.

Most growers will go "back to basics", relying on ploughing and cultivation until they come to grips with producing food crops using only a limited range of chemical weed controls.

Low-tillage growers will go back to a basic program of ploughing, harrowing and scarifying to control weeds in crops.

There will be a need to save on horsepower, limit the number of passes and reduce compaction.

Ideally growers want to completely shatter the soil profile at depth without bringing clods and subsoil to the surface.

Bed forming

Recent trends have been for taller beds.

At the same time, the bed should be free-draining, firm, and uniform without smearing or compaction below.

Taller beds provide:

  • better drainage to reduce waterlogging.
  • increased rooting zone for better use of water.
  • highersoil temperature for an earlier harvest.
  • less mud splash on the crop.


crops which require optimum spacing such as carrots, parsnips and onions require precision seed placement.

Perforated-disc vacuum seeders have been around for 10 years or more and manufacturers continue to refine and develop these machines.

International manufacturers and local custom builders continue to develop more accurate, versatile and reliable precision vacuum seed drills.


Brassicas, lettuce and related crops are usually transplanted as seedlings.

A precision operation, it traditionally relies on manual labour. The cost and availability of workers are key issues for growers.

Fast, reliable and fully automatic planters can transplant at 1 ha/hr with brassicas, tomatoes, onions, celery and similar crops, operated by just two workers.


GPS navigation systems can steer a tractor according within 2cm of a set path using a second GPS receiver mounted on the implement itself to compensate for crabbing on slopes as well as in curves, ensuring precise even in extreme conditions.

horse drawn mouldboard plough
forming seedbed
power harrows
seed drill

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