Visiting the home of the Cross Slot
By Robin Rose
Dr John Baker, the soil scientist cum engineer behind the Cross Slot drill, climbed on our coach about 30 minutes north of Fielding, for the next three hours he captivated us with his storytelling and the science behind his invention.
The Cross Slot is a no-tillage drill that has captured farmers’ interest, because the science, and the crop performance results, repeatedly stack up.
John told us that he has sold 130 Cross Slots worldwide, 60 to New Zealand, 30 in the UK (including one to Andre Mahon, one of the winners of the innovation offer) and the rest in other parts of the world.
The science behind the Cross Slot has been amassed from John’s incredible academic history (at New Zealand’s Massey University), including his and other PhDs’ findings.
Some of the key ‘bits’ of science that make this drill unique, are the shape of the slot that the working points create (similar to a Tic Tac), the pocket of moist air that collects within that pocket allowing the seed to germinate and the near zero soil surface disturbance.
He told the farmers that this drill does five things, and that no other drill on the market does all five.
- It micro-manages crop residues
- Minimises soil disturbance
- Creates a fail-safe germination environment
- Places and covers seeds at a consistent depth
- Band places fertiliser separately at seeding
The results are compelling. Seed rates are consistently reduced by higher rates of germination and emergence; fuel, labour and tractor time savings of up to 60% and machinery replacement and maintenance are less frequent.
Where the Cross Slot wins in a farmers’ mind is the improvement in soil health. John explained how using it builds soil organic matter over the first few years, improves soil porosity and water filtration, improved biological activity and soil trafficability.
Trying to get the group of farmers out of the workshop to catch our flight to the South Island of New Zealand was like extracting teeth! I think we all could have stayed there for the whole day and still have been captivated.
Before the end of the year John is going to announce a new UK distributor of the Cross Slot, he told our farmers that they were the first to hear about it, and that they should all look out for the news of who it will be via The Farming Forum and Direct Driller magazine. Some of the fabrication will be done in Eastern Europe, where John says the quality of workmanship is outstanding (but a lot cheaper), assembly will be in the UK, and the all-important soil-contacting ‘openers’ will continue to be made by the Cross Slot team in Fielding. His hope is that this will make the drill cheaper.