Real results 50 profile - Tom Sewell
Name: Tom Sewell
Farm: Sewell Farms
Cropping: Winter wheat, oilseed rape, winter oats, and spring barley. No set whole farm rotation, however, he has rotations for individual fields.
3 x John Deere tractors; 300hp, 200hp and 180hp
Bateman 24m sprayer
Case Axial flow 9230 (tracks, 9m header)
No-till cross slot drill
About the farmer:
“I think I was about 19 when I decided I was going to farm.
I went to Harper Adams, did three years of a degree course and then left to work for a large farming enterprise in Shropshire, decided not to go back to college as I was learning more working on a big farm with progressive contractors.”
About the farm:
Family partnership, works with his father on the farm. They also do contracting.
Conservation Ag or no-till farming: Tom does not till anything, “I don’t want to see soil at all.”
Spring bean planting: When I spoke to Tom, he was in “his office”, the tractor cab, drilling beans directly into a cover crop which was still completely green and approximately 2 ft tall. He said, “Most people would think I am completely mad but I have done it before and I know that it works.”
The cover crop was sprayed out last week, but at time of drilling it was still completely green. “This will die out in a week or so and the beans will come up through it and in six weeks no-one will know any difference. The field looks a bit scruffy for a week or two until the beans come through.
This is done for soil health, the green cover crop keeps the soil ‘alive and healthy’ throughout the winter so we don’t cultivate as we don’t want to lose carbon through cultivation. Looking down into the crop when drilling”, Tom said, “All I can see is the cover crop and last year’s wheat stubble.”
“The beans grow through the trash and the pre-ems go on onto the cover crop. The trash does not compromise the pre-ems.” He said, “This is the question that everyone asks, I’m not sure why but the pre-ems seem to work better.”
Costs: “We have been doing no-till for three to four years now. The yields have stayed the same but the costs have probably halved. The bean planting will use 10 l/ha diesel and that will be the total amount used to plant the crop.”
Fertiliser: Liquid fertiliser applied with the Bateman sprayer.
“We have not applied any bagged P+K on the farm for the past 18 years all our indices have stayed the same or are going up because of how we are treating our soil.
We have an independent soil advisor who walks all our fields, doing leaf tissue testing as well as soil testing.”
Cover crops: “The cover crop adds a green manure, stopping wind and water erosion. We have a good healthy soil with lots and lots of worms.
If we get a gap of 6-8 weeks between harvest and planting, the next crop we will plant a cover crop; if it is six weeks of August, then you can get a cover crop knee high in that time.”
Wheat and OSR establishment: “Wheat is planted straight into cover crops which could be eight weeks old and up to the top of the front wheel of the tractor. By the time you get to November / December, the cover crop is dead stalks on the floor and the wheat is coming through.
OSR goes straight into the chopped straw from the wheat.”
Blackgrass: “A little bit of an issue but we are getting on top of it. We don’t bother with stale seed beds.”
“We farm to live, we don’t live to farm. It is not all about the farm, although the farm is important, when we work we work hard. We never work on Sundays.
Our business is run completely overdraft free, everything is bought and paid for, all the land, buildings, and machinery.
I like to keep things simple.
I am not a sheep, I don’t copy what everyone else does.”
Hopes for Real Results participation:
This year the trial will be in a block of Crusoe. I hope to get real comparisons of trials work of being part of the Real Results Circle. Small replicated plot trials are not real life and so this is
real life. Real trials on farms in the middle of real fields which are actually field scale are going to be far more relevant to farmers like myself. “
Part of my reason for joining was the chance to be involved with some of the top farmers and hopefully get a chance to meet them and discuss the results that we find.