Sunday, 29 December 2013

Between the Storms - It's a Beautiful Day

It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colours came out

It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
Beautiful day
I couldn't help being reminded of a classic U2 song on a glorious sunny day at Loddington. Although it did mask the wet stormy weather the UK has experienced over the last week. I decided to take advantage of the weather and spray out some sky lark plots and remark some footpaths in the cereal fields. Its no surprise with all the rain that the ground is close to being waterlogged!!

The wheat, osr and oat crops looked very well but black grass lurks in the background and I'm also not sure how well the Kerb has worked in the oilseed crops.

Fantastic clear skies, excellent day for crop walking/

Wheat emergence has been very good after oilseed rape.

Blackgrass is still about but crop competition should help

This wood belt was awash with blue tits, chaffinch, robins and blackbirds. Our supplementary feeding started 10 days ago. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

All drilled up.....

Last week saw the final 100 acres of wheat drilled, mainly ground with high black grass populations and a 3yr Grassley/stubble turnip field. We had to plough 35 acres as the drill just left slots in the turf and the seed was uncovered; so it was out at night ... long hours made more painful by the soul destroying reports of the cricket from Australia!!

Night time ploughing, the first time the plough has seen action this season.

We returned to direct drilling on last years spring bean ground, the seed beds were a bit rough so we will have to be selective on any pre-emergence sprays.

GPS steering seems to be working fine. Fingers crossed it emerges okay!!

Mission accomplished.

Big Boys Toys

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Beans In, Wheat Still Out

The more settled spell of weather has allowed us to drill 100 acres of oats, 60 acres of winter beans and catch up on a bit of spraying. Conditions were not ideal but 90% of the field is acceptable. We have drilled beans into cultivated ground and direct drilled some straight into stubble.

Deep tine cultivation in September and Claydon drilled beans on 26/11/13

Closer look at seedbed from above

Direct drilled beans with Claydon on 26/11/13

More straw and a less open 'slot' in this seedbed
The ground does need to dry up a little more before we can spray any pre-emergence herbicide. Whilst the beans went in well our last 65 acres of wheat has defeated us and we will need some wind to dry the ground to improve conditions, the sun has lost it's drying power.

However, some direct drilled wheat after grass has emerged well. At first glimpse, this crop seemed to be struggling, but on closer inspection and with the sun behind........

One single application of glyphosate, Drill and roll. Crop looks thin looking into the hill.

Same field, the Cordiale wheat looks well and field has drained well after recent rain


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Rainwater, Diesel and Biobed

The rainwater harvesting tank is now in place at Loddington, the debris filter on top has an inlet and outlet and a siphon overflow from the tank back into the drainpipe. One of the more interesting puzzles for farm staff !!
We hope to fill sprayer from this tank as often as possible and it will be useful when using products which require no chlorinated water.  (Not fluoridated water as previously blogged)

10,000 litre rainwater storage
We are also in the process of upgrading our diesel tank and have to put this in place before we move on to our biobed. The concrete falls, drainage sumps and general logistics to comply with all the rules and regulations is a challenging exercise! 
10,000 litre double skinned diesel tank being lowered into position by Phil Jarvis

Once the diesel tank is in position we can position the new spray shed, water tanks and complete the spray filling area.

Water tank and sump tanks ready for biobed phase of the project

The hard work then begins getting the drainage sumps, pumps and drip irrigation to work properly. However, the planning first then the logistics......

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Guest Blog from Visitor Centre Architect - Sylvester Cheung

Sylvester Cheung designed the visitor centre at Loddington and has kindly agreed to let us reproduce his latest blog, reflecting on the design, energy usage and visitors.

On 11th September 2013, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust celebrated their 1st anniversary of the opening of their Visitor Centre in Loddington, Leicestershire. It was an honour to be invited to attend this event to celebrate this milestone with the trust and their researching partners. It was fascinating to learn that not only do they research into farming techniques and ecology, they investigate so much further into details such as containers design and recycling schemes.

One of the areas that I am always keen to learn about this building is its statistics. Designed to be energy efficient, how has the building performed one year on in terms of its energy consumption and usage? Below is a quotation from Dr Alastair Leake – Director of Policy and the Allerton Trust who has been monitoring the annual energy consumption of the building:
‘…The heat meter which measures the quantity of heat produced by the wood chip fired central heating boiler indicates we have generated 56 Mw since the boiler was installed. To do this we have burnt 14.5 tonnes of wood, saving 5,588 litres of oil at a cost £3352, and cutting our CO2 by 13.8 tonnes. The boiler has also provided all the hot water for the building’s wash-basins.
 If we ignore the cost of extracting the timber, which forms part of woodland management, the chipping cost us £1,400 to produce 90 tonnes. This was also dried in the grain store, stored and transported to the hopper, all of which has some, but difficult to attribute cost. Purely based on chipping cost at £15/ tonne, our own produced fuel has cost us just £225. Had we purchased the chip from a wood fuel supplier then the equivalent cost for the tonnage used would have £1650, about half the oil equivalent cost.
The solar panels have generated 5930 kw of electrical power, saving us £711 compared to purchasing from the grid, and brought income through the Feed In Tariff payments have generated £2,490. This has reduced our CO2 emissions by 3.11 tonnes….’
In terms of usage, the visitor centre has welcomed almost 2,000 people since its opening, Visitors include policymaker from DEFRA, European executives from Coca-Cola, farmers, scientists and schoolchildren. The local branch of the Women’s Institute also use the building regularly for their meetings and functions. It was reported that some 140 events and briefings were delivered within its first year of opening and the trust are also confident that they will surpass 120 events in the calender year of 2013.
These are all extremely encouraging facts and figures. Following the last feature in the local press after winning the ProCon Susatainable Development Award 2012, the building was once again featured in the trade press of Architects DataFile in October 2013.

Last week, the trust have notified us and confirmed the launch of their new website with a dedicated page for the Visitor Centre. For more information about the Allerton Project and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, please visit their websites.

Sylvester Cheung

10th November 2013

Friday, 8 November 2013

20 year Snapshot of Farming at Loddington

The new GWCT website was launched this week, many of the Allerton Project pages have been revitalised, reviewed and revamped. Head of Farming Phil Jarvis thought it an opportune moment to reproduce 'Farming at Allerton'

It is a demanding task to research the interaction between farming and wildlife. It becomes a bigger challenge when trying to farm profitably, care for the environment and be an integral part of the local community.
The Allerton Project has been addressing these issues for over twenty years whilst meeting a primary objective to produce food to feed a growing population. The farming system has evolved over two decades and now embraces many of the modern technologies found in British agriculture.
The farm is 333 hectares of Denchworth and Hanslope clay, growing winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, winter oats and spring beans. Sheep graze 30 hectares of permanent grassland. The farm has 20 hectares of woodland and numerous stream and ponds within its boundaries.
In 1992 when the project arrived, the cultivation system used a plough, disc and power harrow to provide seedbeds for a Suffolk coulter seed drill. Winter barley, winter beans and spring linseed were a significant part of the rotation. Research into country stewardship mixes was at the forefront of our landscape research.
In 1997 the farm moved to a more minimal tillage approach, our cultivation and drilling equipment was based on discs and tines. The Allerton Project joined forces with W.J.Wright and Son in 2000 and started a joint venture farming operation, sharing machinery and labour. The arable farming area has now grown 800 hectares.  In 2001 we introduced a disc cultivator drill which allowed us further reduce our crop establishment operations.  The main cultivation tractor moved from tyres to tracks to reduce soil compaction.

Tracks replaced tyres to reduce ground pressure at the Allerton Project

During this period our research looked at a number of issues affecting soil erosion, organic matter and soil flora and fauna. With the Water Framework Directive becoming more relevant to British agriculture, our soil and water demonstrations received increasing interest. In recent years nutrient management and erosion mitigation measures have become an increasing feature on the farm. The combined approach of the public, private and charitable sector stakeholders has enabled practical research and demonstration to thrive, now Loddington is proud to be a LEAF innovation centre.

The concerns over food safety and security, highlighted in the government’s ‘Food 2030’ report, mean research into production systems from ‘field to fork’ are receiving increasing scrutiny .  The Foresight Report put global food and farming under the spotlight and the concept of ‘sustainable intensification’ in UK farming systems is investigated at the Allerton Project. To address some of these issues, our most recent change in cultivation strategy took place in 2013 with a shift towards direct drilling. Tracks replaced tyres on the combine, a trash rakes is used to assist weed germination and a purpose built direct drill is the primary cultivation tool. The challenge of black grass and slugs will be thoroughly examined in the years to come. As the pressure to produce more food from a finite land resource increases, new technology will help us improve efficiency.
The Allerton tractor cab- new technology will assist us to meter seed, auto-steer, and improve tractor performance.
The next chapter in our farmland research will also encompass resource protection, fuel and energy reduction, increasing soil resilience and lead to a sustainable farming blueprint. The introduction of solar panels, bio beds, rainwater harvesting, farm plastics recycling and biomass heating are examples of best practice on view at the project.
With the challenges of volatile commodity markets, weather related issues and a growing world population the need for a robust food production system has never been more relevant. Whilst demonstrating a wide range of land management practices, the Allerton Project is always reliant on a commercial and profitable farm.
Common Agricultural Policy reforms will also affect the future British farming; the Allerton Project will be able to help shape and react to these policy changes with its practical farm demonstrations.

Friday, 25 October 2013

New Drill System Update

With nearly 100mm (4" in old money) of rain in October and the prospect of more to come our heavy Leicestershire clay (Denchworth and Hanslope) has called time on drilling for a while. We have about 65 acres of wheat to drill and some oats on a neighbour's farm.

The remaining wheat ground has a bad black grass problems and we have delayed drilling to apply a couple of glyphosate applications.

Spring oat stubble after straw rake and drilled with Cordiale winter wheat

The earlier drilled wheat and oats have emerged well
JB Diago drilled on 6th October

Mascani winter oats emerging on 24th Oct- drilled 7th October

The issues

Claydon worked well when used as a pure direct drill. Drilling after tine and disced land tended to pull up lots of clods, this was probably as a result of dry September weather. Rain did however come to the rescue of these slow emerging crops.

Claydon worked well after 50mm of rain soaked into seedbeds and drill tines produced a clod free tilth. However, with all big farm machinery, there comes a time when it gets to wet to continue.

Seed depth
We probably drilled some of our wheat a little deep, up to 75mm in places. We have some yellow boots on the crop, but the slugs have also found it difficult to hollow seed out at that depth.

Pre-baited a few fields with wet process metaldehyde pellets, but switched to Ferric phosphate in all wheat sown after beans and oats. When it came to drilling we placed 1kg of metaldehyde down the drill coulter and another 1.5kgs behind the rolls. Ferric phosphate was applied at 3kgs hectare.

Blackgrass and pre-emergence sprays
All wheat has received Crystal and some diflufenican, but we have only managed a couple of fields with a follow up of Avadex. Either the wind or the rain has beaten us, but we may still get a window of opportunity.


If I were to judge last year as 3/10, I'd give this autumn an 8/10.

 'A positive anything is better than a negative nothing'. Elbert Hubbard

Not perfect by any means but

Sunday, 20 October 2013


This morning's crop walking was a direct result of a Twitter conversation yesterday. The hash tag of slimy army watch had several growers reporting the degree of field slug activity. The wet weather we are currently experiencing has mobilised the hollowing, shredding and munching mollusc.

A brisk walk around our wheat crops, following oilseed rape, showed limited  signs of slug activity. The seed beds were relatively dry and cobbly when drilled, so some ideal clods for these little critters to be hiding under.

JB Diago wheat just starting to emerge

Well, we drilled the wheat at between 50-75mm depth, to get the plant developed before the slugs had chance to hollow out the grains. We may lose one or two plants that fail to reach the surface but the good news is it takes longer for the slugs to do critical damage to the emerging wheat plant.

Yellow wheat plants show signs of emergence from depth

The warm weather is allowing the crop to emerge quickly and the activity, the moisture has mobilised the slugs..
Other growers on Twitter discussing their product of choice and all dismissed dry processed metaldehyde. Ferric phosphate was the answer for a couple of the generals in the war against slugs. Another suggestion was a combination of Ferric Phosphate and mini wet processed metaldehyde.

We'll keep a watching brief with a Ferric Phosphate applications in a couple of small areas. We may have won the battle against slugs at present, but the war is not over.

Friday, 11 October 2013

First Steps with the Claydon Drill

Our first season with straw rake and Claydon drill (See video below).
This autumn's issues.
  • Fantastic weather for harvest,  warmer temperatures are just about right for oilseed rape growth.
  • Dry September has delayed blackgrass flush and we are still holding our nerve and waiting to drill our final wheat fields.
  • Tined cultivations and mole ploughing to remedy last year's soil issues have led to a few cloddy seedbeds
Cultivations before Claydon have led to a few cloddy seedbeds

In all fairness to the Claydon it has operated best when used as a direct drill, so lets wait and see what the crop emergence is like.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Backing British Farming Charter

Farming Delivers For Leicestershire and Rutland was launched at the Melton Food Festival on Saturday.  NFU LNR Chairman Richard Harris and Vice Chairman Phil Jarvis also signed the 'Back British Farming Charter' with celebrity chefs and food experts, Teresa Bovey, Stephen Hallam, Rachel Green, Jo Pratt and Alan Coxon.

“We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to showcase Leicestershire and Rutland’s farming story. It is a very visible way of showing farming’s strategic importance to our counties’ economy, its food heritage, the landscape and our future,” said Richard Harris.

Phil Jarvis commented  "It was a fantastic event on Saturday and it's tremendous to see the number of food retailers and customers. Leicestershire and Rutland farmers should be proud of the products they produce for the food market"
Food Festival organiser, Matthew O’Callaghan says: “Melton Mowbray is very proud of its food heritage; we’re known as the rural capital of food, and we wouldn’t be here without the strong foundations and the strong links between local food and local farmers. I know that farming delivers not just great ingredients for our cheeses, pork pies and the vast variety of food we produce in Leicestershire and Rutland, but also the landscape we love, green energy and jobs for now and the future.

“By signing the Back British Farming charter, we’ll be confirming the importance that food and farming play in our counties and in Britain. And by signing the charter, we’ll be showing our trust for our farmers who produce safe, wholesome food, on our doorsteps.”

NFU’s Farming Delivers for Leicestershire and Rutland is the latest strand in the NFU’s national campaign, rolled out this year to showcase the value of our industry in many different spheres. The Back British Farming Charter asks everyone to sign up to support our farmers in producing food to feed the nation, to work with the retailers, caterers and government to support British farmers and to pledge to buy British food.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

I've managed to get half our technology working !

Rain stopped play this morning, so time to catch up on a few jobs that have been on the back burner while we've been busy in the fields.
We recently sprayed the oilseed rape and I was interested to see how accurate GPS drilling was.

The crop has established well, but it has been dry and growth is slow. It is getting a drink from this morning's rainfall... 8mm in 2hours so far.

In the photo below, last year's curved tramline can be seen straddling the new straight GPS tramline

The picture below shows the sprayer route around the field, just about spot on!!

The next job was to check the crop store temperatures where the spring beans are drying, all looks well, with a click of a button the fan is turned off during the wet weather. Not bad as the store is 2.5 miles away! I suppose you could activate it from the other side of the world in the internet age

The temperatures in the store at Loddington is okay, but I still need to change some batteries in one of the sensors. I better get on with that now..... and visit the stores to make sure the computer is telling the truth.

As our other technology and the GPS on the combine, that is a story for another time.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Down on the Farm

Whats been happening" Down on the Farm"

Two legged mole plough.. improving the drainage
What a difference 12 months make... cracks in soil and we need some rain now
This oat and radish cover crop needs a drink
Blackgrass in amongst the osr
Flower/pollen and nectar plot preparation

Scarified plot ready for flowers/pollen and nectar

Seeding flower margins


Kings Campaign mix cover crop
Leicester Longwools could become Loddington Longwools

Combining spring beans 27th September 4.5t/ha from this field

nice heap in the store.. looks like average will be 3.7- 4.00 t/ha 

10.00am this morning ...last field of spring oats to complete this years harvest


7.00pm Last trailer into store... Goodbye Harvest 2013

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

September Report

All the spring barley and Spring oil seed rape is now cut and that leaves the spring beans and 75 acres of spring oats. Fingers crossed the forecast looks a little more promising for next week.

200 acres of winter oilseed rape was sown in the last week of August with the Claydon direct drill,  micro-nutrients were incorporated in the seed bed.  GPS plotted our tramlines and what a joy to roll and spray without peering into the abyss looking for slight indentations left by pre-emergence markers. A half rate of slug pellets and pre-emergence herbicide completed the operations.

Pre-emergence markers are easy to follow

More time to take in the wonderful Leicestershire landscape

Sometimes tramline planning doesn't always work out
The oilseed rape has now emerged although for nearly a fortnight the plants were short of moisture.
We will give the crop 28kgs of N and apply a graminicide to help with volunteer cereal control. Black grass and brome may take a bit more to control.

There is rape emerging here... promise!

Close up
Black grass is waiting in the wings !!!
 We have sown a cover crop on two fields that are coming into spring beans. Fodder radish and oats are just coming through. The late drilling date of Sept 1st, may not make this as successful as planned