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.