BASE UK held a trip to Scotland on 30th and 31st October 2017 to visit some of their members’ farms.  This is a report from Jock McFarlane.

I heard about the Scottish trip through my neighbour Ben Barron who forwarded me the email with the itinerary. I contacted Rebecca and invited myself as his guest!

Scotland October 17 – Always have a spade to hand!

I have dabbled a bit with non-inversion crop establishment for a couple of years with limited success as I didn’t know what I was doing, however I did learn a lot – especially what not to do!  The chance to join the BASE trip seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out what to do rather than what NOT to do.

First of all, I would like to thank the group for having me along and for making me feel so welcome and a special thank you to Doug, Sandy and Colin for showing all of us around their farms. I really enjoyed the couple of days I spent with everyone.

Doug Christie – has been at it for a long time and his knowledge is phenomenal. His soil looks and smells lovely with many worms and the crops looked fantastic. His knowledge of cover crops was invaluable, and it was no wonder we spent a whole day at Durie.  Apart from the farm his house is amazing, and we enjoyed lovely homemade soup with rolls and cake for lunch.

Doug has tried many different drills and he explained the situations where he might use a disc or a coulter drill and this was very interesting and useful for me as using the wrong drill, or the right drill in the wrong situation, could be costly! Doug also showed us his cleaner/separator which can separate crops such as peas from barley and this was obviously a very useful bit of kit.

Rancho’s Restaurant- it was nice to have dinner together in Edinburgh. Rancho’s did the job and my fillet steak was absolutely delicious – pity it came from Argentina!!

Scotland October 17 – Sandy Allison’s Vaderstad Drill

Sandy Allison – I haven’t seen Sandy for about 40 odd years so it was really good to meet up at Turnhouse Farm for day 2. Sandy has also been doing CA for many years and has, over time, converted from min till to no till.  Again, his soils looked great.  We saw his Vaderstad drill in action sowing wheat which was good to see – there is no substitute for a practical demonstration.  Looking at the job from a conventional farmer’s point of view (plough and one pass drill) it all looked very simple drilling into bean stubble but experts can often make something difficult look easy!  

Looking at the fields that were growing a crop, or a cover crop the drill obviously works well and the newly emerging plants looked very healthy.  Most of the problems that Sandy has, like sterile brome, seems to have arisen from the previous min till system but this problem now seems to be receding under the no till management.

Colin Hunter – I met Colin last year on a trip to Horsch in Germany.  He was telling me then all about his farm and so it was very interesting for me to see the farm in real life.  It was perhaps no surprise that Colin was using a Horsch Sprinter which he kindly demonstrated even though the ground conditions were a bit wet.  Colin has access to the digestate from a neighbouring AD plant and he also uses the ‘waste’ from a reasonably nearby distillery.  This is a relatively inexpensive fertiliser supplying a good amount of N:P:K in a 2.1.1.ratio.  Colin kindly took us round several fields which was very interesting as we were able to see various crops at different stages of development. The cup of tea before home was also very much appreciated!

Scotland October 17 – BASE UK Members and Guests

Me – I have decided to have a go for real this time having dabbled for a couple of years.  The visit to these farms and the knowledge that there is a group to help me has given me the confidence to try in a small way.  Ben has agreed to sow my spring barley for 2018 directly into stubble with his drill and I am also going to direct drill some spring barley, on Doug’s suggestion, into a standing 5 species cover crop of crimson clover, legumes, grains and more.  It was also great that Steve Townsend was on the trip and I have a feeling I might need to use the phone number he gave me!  Thank you Steve for all your help and support.

Thank you all for having me along to your Scottish trip and yes, I have become a member of BASE!

                Jock McFarlane.

We are delighted to welcome Jock to the group and that this trip was so beneficial.


DOUG CHRISTIE commented – “It seemed to be a successful day here at Durie, albeit cold.  15 turned up.  Hats off to those from further afield venturing North and also to the Scottish BASE UK members and guests (some of us have only just finished harvest and frantically trying to finish up sowing).

Professor Adrian Newton


Prof. Adrian Newton started off by talking about the variety trial he is carrying out here; aiming to see if there is any difference between winter wheat and barley varieties under a no tilled and ploughed scenario (it kind of hurt ploughing even half a hectare of land that had not been inverted for over 15 years). This area hopefully opens up the door to future trials on this hectare plot.

Old and new variety trails in ploughed and no-till



We then went on to look and merits and pitfalls of various, to be overwintered, cover crops under the cloud of a challenging Autumn and harvest before going onto looking at some recently planted wheat, and some very recently planted wheat – sown into bean stubbles, barley and pea companion crop stubble, and oats and bean companion crop stubble.

Perhaps the afternoon would have been more fruitful spent with a couple of bottles of wine in front of the fire.”

Thanks to Doug, Sandy and Colin and your families for hosting this event.  Your warm welcomes were gratefully received.

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