Putting Amazone to practical use: Scotland – home to malt whisky and Amazone drills

Avant 4001-2
Amazone Avant 4001-2

It is a mixture of years and years of technical know-how and experience, the ample supply of local spring water coupled with the finest malting barley that makes Scotland so famous for its malt whisky. Aberdeen-shire, in North-East Scotland, is home to some 50 Scottish whisky distilleries, including worldwide renowned names like Glenfiddich. Although primarily producing potatoes for seed, G & J Mackie, farming at Little Hilton near Turriff, has over the years enjoyed a close working relationship with the malting industry producing the ideal low nitrogen grains that are necessary for producing that quality amber product that the world loves.

You can’t rush a good whisky, and that is the approach taken with the degree of care and attention put into the farm at Little Hilton. “As part of the rotation with potatoes, we grow both winter wheat and winter oats alongside spring barley. The soil type and weather lends itself to growing spring barley for malting and we supply both Crisp Malting Group, Boortmalt and Diageo with varieties such as Diablo, Sassy and Laureate which generate a malt ideal for distilling whisky”, explains Graeme Mackie. The Diageo Group includes brands like J&B, Johnnie Walter, Talisker and Singleton to name but a few.

The aim is to plough everything early winter to get some frost mould on the ground thus making life easier for the drill combination in the spring and for the last 3 years that combination has been an Amazone Avant 4001-2 front tank grain and fertiliser combination. “We moved up from an Amazone 3 m rear mounted drill combination and front fertiliser hopper up to the folding 4 m to increase work rates and we love the finish of the wedge ring roller which, on our land type, creates the ideal reconsolidation of the seedbed ahead of the RoTeC+ disc coulters”, Graeme goes on to say. “We map the farm on a 5 year rotation and apply P & K where necessary and depending on the offtake. PH levels are closely monitored and we work to having low-er PH levels on the potato ground and then increase again for the cereals during the rotation.” With most of the arable land on muck for straw agreements, the straw is baled and removed and the farm is increasingly conscious of the need to maintain soil organic matter levels and has started using cover crops, such as oil radish and oats, as a means of having green material to plough in for the spring as well as locking in some nitrogen.

The Avant 4001-2, pulled behind a Fendt 828, goes in straight after the plough and, for the spring malting barley, a blend of CAN and TSP is drilled down the spout. “Although we have adequate indices of P, the colder soil temperatures and shorter days mean that we are looking to have P directly in seed zone so that the root develops more vigorously enabling the emerging plant to feed itself better. The nitrogen placed directly in the seedbed also gives the crop that additional head start that we need. The further two thirds of nitrogen is applied either as a dose of SingleTop for the sulphur or liquid 32% N and sulphur applied by the sprayer. Cold mornings and dewy crops can lead to scorch, so we are very careful when and where we use the liquid N”, comments Graeme.

“The calibration of the front tank for both the seed and fertiliser is carried out via an AmaTron 3 control box and, although the Fendt is ISOBUS and is used for the steering functions, we like to have the AmaTron looking after the drill otherwise you spend too much time switching screen”, Graeme explains.

So next time when you raise that glass and enjoy that tot of a fine single malt, just think, that the malt might have been drilled by an Amazone Avant – your good health!

The perfect result from growing barley