Laurent Vaucher farms in the Lorraine region of eastern France, near the city of Metz. He also works as a contractor using a Novag 4m. He has bought since 2019 a wider Novag 6m to replace his first acquisition.
“I started my conservation farming approach because I was noticing a drop in the organic matter content of my soils. Intensive soil tillage had removed life out of my soils. I was getting big erosion problems in my hilly fields and too many stones. The level of expenses for my 140 hectares, with fields at multiple location, was simply too high. So, I went against the common belief, in our area where most farmer heavily criticize no tillage for not being suited to our heavy, cold land. The traditional crops we have been growing so far were winter wheat, winter barley, oil seed rape and spring barley. However, for 2 years I have started to diversify and I am adding spring peas, sunflower, grain corn and soybeans.
At our place, the farmer’s population is getting older and we do not find enough younger, motivated people to carry on their work. As a result of this trend, I think that custom farming will develop very fast in the next few years. But, contrary to the existing offer on the contracting marker, I wanted to emphasize the soil health benefits they would gain by not working their soils. However, to be successful in this job and keep the trust of my customers, I needed to be able to achieve the best quality for seed placement in a wide range of conditions.
I was looking at the Novag drill for a couple of years already. I visited other farmers who had a Novag for a few years and was quite impressed by the precision of their management. The new 4m I bought in 2018 was the biggest purchase of my carrier. But I don’t think any other technology could have worked in our conditions, since we farm on some hilly area, have a mixture of quite heavy soils but sometimes light sandy soils as well. We also have grain maize in our rotation, and that leave quite a lot of residue on the field. I thought that even if the Novag was more expensive, the quality of the job was more important than saving a few on the drill. In my opinion, many if not all leading brands offer implements that are too expensive for what they deliver!
I pulled the Novag 4m with my beloved Magnum pro 7210 (I must confess: I am an IH admirer). It’s such a great tractor, but you had to slow down going uphill. My normal drilling speed was around 7km/h on flat area and went down to 4km/h on hills. The first spring crops we planted, especially spring barley and peas, looked particularly promising and the difference with the cultivated fields of my neighbour was amplified by very dry spring conditions. These first “visual” results really triggered a demand for contracting service beyond my expectations. All of a sudden, my neighbours became interested in directly drilled spring crops. Winter Barley sown in 2018 emerging not less than 6 weeks after seeding. A real miracle: everything was there, waiting for the rain.
In 2018, I covered 700 ha drilled as a contracting service + 150ha for my own farm, and I realized that I already had to gear up and invest in a more powerful tractor, to pull a wider drill. It was the only way to meet the increasing requests I was receiving for 2019.
I sold the 4m to a farmer in the Champagne region in the spring of 2019, and had the opportunity to trade it with a used 6m Novag. Choosing the tractor was more difficult. I really would have wanted a Kirovets 400HP but it was too hard to find in France. In the end I found a good second hand Quadtrac 500. That would definitively solve any pulling problem on the hills! Laurent’s QuadTrac & Novag 6m marked with the Lorraine’s cross, the logo for his contracting business. Last year, 2019, the spring was no different than 2018: very dry, and summer was even dryer.
The soil was really tough and since I wanted to start planting cereals before the autumn rains, the full weight of the drill was needed to put the seeds quite deep. When you’re not expecting rain for a while, good slot closure is essential.
In autumn, we had rain like unseen before. This led to difficult conditions, and delayed seeding. In too wet fields, I faced a few compaction issues in headlands. However, I was able to make a generally satisfying work despite the conditions. Tilled field around greatly suffered from the heavy rainfalls and actually look worse. This wet climate is nevertheless showing that my soils have already started improving. My fields are not flooded, and my soils are only going to get better, and more resilient to compaction.
Novag in England.
New service agent in Wiltshire
Laurence Vaucher says “Congratulations to the Webb family for becoming the first UK service agents”. Their farming and contracting business is in Lyneham, Wilts Service Agents from which they can serve the whole of the country. The extensive configuration on their new T-ForcePlus 440 allows for a wide range of jobs, including the seeding of no tilled Maize which will be tested this spring in their region. In these areas, they will offer Novag demonstrations to any farmer seeking to try out this seeding system for himself, and they can count on full support from the factory. Novag drills and parts are fully available in the UK and sold on a direct sale basis.
Following last, successful, edition, Novag is again taking part in Groundswell and will disclose its newest drill model, the T-Force 450ct at the occasion of the no-till show. Make sure to book your tickets in advance! The new machine will stay for a while in the UK and will travel after Groundswell to the fields of our partner TWB farms.