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Conversation with Jack Houghton, DW Burton Farms

We visited Jack Houghton, arable manager at DW Burton Farms in Staffordshire. Tending to over 2,000 acres of land and looking to increase their acreage in 2023, it is important to have reliable machines and efficient methods to ensure quality results for their crops. We chatted to Jack about the Mzuri PRO-TIL 4m Select drill they purchased through KO Machines.

The Mzuri PRO-TIL is specifically designed as a single pass ‘stubble to seed bed’ drill. Being so versatile, whether drilling directly into stubble, minimally tilled land or even after the plough, makes the PRO-TIL the ideal machine to simplify the transition towards permanent direct drilling.

The business decided to purchase an ex-demo machine in 2020 but have since swapped it for a brand-new machine. Previous to using the Mzuri drill DW Burton were using a competitive strip-till machine but found that it was prone to blocking up and was very slow.

“If you took your eye off it, it would block up and that meant didn’t want to drill at night because we would be worried it would block. So, it just wasn’t reliable for us.”

Strip-Till is the main drilling method that the business uses, they also run a Horsch Pronto 4m but the main bulk of their work is done with the Mzuri PRO-TIL.

“Strip-Til has been our focus for a while now, it suits us because it is a one-man operation, eliminating the need for additional machines and labour. It also makes us more time efficient, we currently run the machine at 13 kph. The most area we have covered in a day is 115 acres, we probably push on faster than we would ideally like for the soils, but we need to get on with our acreage, so it is a compromise, and the drill does a good job!”

The 4m machine is a robust and strong set up which does require adequate pulling power.

“We run the drill on our Case Optim 300 which suits it very well. It does take a bit of pulling but its more traction that power. Ideally, we would like to go up to a 6m machine but of course that would mean a bigger tractor on the front, so we will see!”

The Mzuri Select series can drill in a choice of narrower or wider row spacings. The wide row option makes the Select particularly suited to crops such as oilseed rape and maize. It is equally at home with drilling narrowly spaced crops including wheat, barley and oats.

“We use the wider spacing option for our oilseed rape which is on 74cm spacing because we also drill companion crops in between the rows. Mzuri came out and fitted a separate solenoid which allows me to choose different options of what legs I can have in the ground. We usually have half of the legs doing rape the other half doing the companion crops. We also have four hoppers on the machine; fertiliser, seed, companion crop seed and slug pellets.”

Another fantastic feature on the Mzuri drill is the individual depth adjustment on each of the semi-pneumatic Coulter depth wheels which can accurately control the seed placement.

“Seed placement for us has been very good. One of the main aims when we bought the drill was to really get the oilseed rape establishment and make sure we are getting the fertiliser placed right beneath the seed. With the depth adjustment we can work anywhere between 10 inches and 2 inches so we can go in deeper for the oilseed rape and shallower for the wheat. Then with the addition of the press wheels, the seed is always going into nice, consolidated soil.”

The Strip-Til method is becoming increasingly popular not just for its time and fuel savings but also for improved soil health, precision of fertiliser application and reductions in soil compaction.

“We would purchase a Mzuri drill again, there really isn’t anything else on the market that matches it for Strip-Til. It’s everything we need and the support from Will at Mzuri and KO Machines has been good for both sales and parts back up.”