A visit from several English Nuffield scholars to New Zealand has seen a remarkable turnaround in export orders of Baker No-Tillage seed drills to the UK.
Each scholar undertook their own world study of no-tillage and discovered the “missing link” in Feilding, in the Manawatu.
Baker No-Tillage Ltd, the foremost global manufacturer of low-disturbance, low-tillage drills, was visited by the scholars separately in 2013 and 2014 and each left convinced they’d found the machinery that would regenerate soil health, increase arable crops and help to feed the world.
Several purchased Cross-Slot drills while others engaged Cross Slot contractors both before and on their return to England. All were very active on social media.
Through word of mouth and their social media communications, the scholars generated interest amongst their peers about the huge benefits of low-disturbance no-tillage. The end result saw the sales of Cross-Slot seed drills to the UK increase 13 fold in a two year period.
Dr John Baker, CEO and Chairman of Baker No-Tillage, which produces Cross-Slot machines from its Feilding factory, says while New Zealand is still its biggest market, 75 percent of the company’s business is exports.
“We’re gratified with the orders received from the United Kingdom, which we were struggling to expand in until the Nuffield scholars visited our plant,” Dr Baker said.
“It’s ironic that no-tillage was invented and discarded in England because they couldn’t make it work. But here in New Zealand we refined it so it could become the most potent force in restoring soil to good health.”
Addressing poor soil quality
Dr Baker explains that many English soils have been “pounded to death” for hundreds of years by traditional ploughing. In widespread areas of Britain, soil quality is so poor that its ability to produce arable crops lessens every year.
He says the Cross-Slot drills sold to England in the last two years have;
• Retained surface residues and drilled through them.
• Increased soil organic matter.
• Regenerated soil health.
• Reduced endemic weed problems.
• Minimised soil disturbance.
• Improved infiltration and drainage of soil and its ability to carry heavy traffic that causes vehicle tracking.
• Allowed continuous cropping of the same soil to cumulatively rebuild soil health rather than destroy it, as previously and,
• Above all, improved crop yield and profitability.
“Our Cross-Slot technology is as near to a silver bullet as the agricultural industry is ever going to get for improving food production in the world from the same acreage,” John Baker comments.
He explains that one of the benefits of restoring soil health is improving not only dry soil crop performance but achieving the same positive effect on wet soils.
“Because Britain has heavy soils, low sunshine hours, a short window in which to sow seeds and heavy rainfall that often leads to soil saturation, ponding and even flooding, we expect the dominant process for growing arable crops in Britain will eventually be Cross-Slot low-disturbance, no-tillage or something very similar,” he says.
Now the UK is adopting his technology, Dr Baker says it will have an important influence on the rest of Europe. Baker No-Tillage is currently talking to potential licensees in the UK to further proliferate their machines throughout Europe.
He believes the compactness of the UK was a factor in “getting the message out rapidly” and now Baker No-Tillage is ready to expand its exports to both dry and wet continental countries of Europe.
“The only limitation is our ability to expand what is happening widely and quickly enough,” he says.
Already Baker No-Tillage exports to 20 countries and is currently negotiating with further nations almost every day. General Manager, Bill Ritchie, leaves for the United Kingdom next month to confirm several more sales.
Dr Baker is facing the challenge of increasing sales to the United Kingdom because of Brexit and the uncertainty in the value of the pound. He acknowledges that, as Cross-Slot is an expensive tool, some potential clients may keep their money under the mattress until the pound stabilises.
However, because it is technically superior to any other low-disturbance, no-tillage drill in the world, it must prevail as the world faces the problem of feeding 50 percent more people by the year 2050.