Saturday, 12 December 2015

Sharing Your Farming Story

Farming can be a battle with Blackgrass, cause you to ponder upon poor prices and get baffled by BPS bureaucracy. However there is a great story out there and I was given the opportunity to shed a little light on our Open Farm Sunday experiences in Farmers Weekly.

Whilst we share our story spare a thought for those Farmers in the north of the country affected by the recent flooding.
Sharing our Farming Story


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Clear Cut No Nonsense Approach

The latest Campaign for the Farmed Environment leaflet takes such a positive approach to crop protection for arable and livestock farmers.

"Clear and simple advice"

In an era of information proliferation, this clear cut, no nonsense approach is extremely refreshing. There is no mention of penalties or fines, but a number of constructive measures to implement. It doesn't duck out of the legal requirements that farmers have to follow. The language is robust where it needs to be, but is sensible and non confrontational.

Many growers are bombarded with literature on water protection zones, confused by agri-environment schemes, Greening  and a plethora of water quality consultations. Whilst its vital to protect our ecosystems, tying growers in 'bureaucratic knotweed' can be counterproductive as you try to comprehend the messages and decipher the semantics.

The advisory leaflet was launched this week, at the East of England Showground.  It was good to see it on every seat of the afternoon seminar at Crop Tec.

"Launching the leaflet"
Farmers do care about the environment. However, jumping through regulatory hoops or indeed getting stopped at the first entry hurdle is frustrating. So initial take up of agri-environment schemes is often slow to gather momentum. This can give some commentators the opportunity to question farmers environmental credentials. Its not the environment farmers don't want to protect, its the process by which they have to get there that is the issue.

So if every piece of environmental legislation disappeared overnight, the CFE Literature page would give you a comprehensive guide to looking after your farm. The leaflets include succinct guidelines on nutrients, soil, wildlife, water and biodiversity habitats for both livestock and arable farmers. I  recommend them whole heartedly to every farmer across the UK.

The information held within them make financial sense as well. Who wouldn't want to make better use of plant nutrition, build a healthy productive soil, encourage bees and other insects which help pollinate crops. The business case is as strong as that for the environment.

Finally, bravo to the collaboration of farming and environmental organisations that agreed on the principles for publication. Its a far better rural landscape when there's a harmonic resonance, than listen to the sound of mud slinging.

Let's hope some common sense prevails with the future direction of the Campaign For The Farmed Environment. I'm pretty sure these documents will stand my farming practices in good stead for many seasons to come and it will be a shame if others don't see the value to our industry.

Friday, 18 September 2015

High and Lows - Joys and Woes

We're on the home run, in what had become a rather 'normal harvest' in terms of weather patterns. Fine and dry weather whilst crops ripen then, show them the combine and down come the August showers. Before the picture and harvest progress here are this season's highs and woes.

  • Its always a pleasure to work in the countryside during the summer months
  • Yields are up on our 5 year average
  • The benefits of reduced tillage are becoming apparent
  • I love GPS automatic steering on combine and tractors
  • The weather has helped chit our 'No. 1 Public Enemy' - Blackgrass
  • Blackgrass - We continue to 'fight the good fight'
  • Low commodity prices - will we ever have proper functioning market place on a level playing field
  • Late harvest has delayed osr and cover crop drilling, a week  or two in August is critical for good establishment
So with 2016's harvest oil seed rape just putting some true leaves out, 116 acres of beans to harvest here are some of our summer photos.

The name of the game at this time of year is combining
'Two or three mows and pollen & nectar shows'

Reasonable oats yields surpassing our previous best  - over 8 tonne/ha for some fields
The bees are in the borage
Growing the winter bird table feed -millet, kale and cereals
Sunshine on a rainy day
The dust did occasionally fly in early September
Cover crop drilling delayed by later harvest - fingers crossed!!
Loddington's 'Sunflower Strip'
The last wheat to cut - 13th September 2015
Apart from a frustrating 'Ad Blue' feed problem early doors the combine performed well.

This just about sums up  showery summer rain filled harvest











Friday, 14 August 2015

Combining, Cutting and Clouds

As you would expect, in the month of August, the combine has been getting into some serious action. Oilseed rape and Oats have been cut and the 17mm of rain on the 13th August has allowed us to catch our breath before the wheat is ready. A small amount of hay has been made for the sheep and I thought I'd add some rather interesting cloud formations in my picture gallery. Enjoy!!
First to come in was the oilseed rape -yielding between 3.5 and 4.4 tonnes per hectare

Thunderbirds 2 and 4 !!

Oats look good...hope we get them before the rain.

Here comes your porridge ..oats yielded up to 8 tonnes/ha

Environment meets production

Sunflowers for September or as Green Day would say Wake me up when September comes...

Hay... smells grand

Sheep are not too excited ..lazing about

There is a reason they are called a Longwool!!!

Red sky at night...haymakers delight

What a bizzare cloud formation
More harvest and cultivation action soon.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Countryfile in Context

It was good to see Countryfile address the issue of soil sustainability on this week's programme. The health of our soil is the most important factor for our business and environmental sustainability.

The time available on the programme meant that not all issues got coverage, however some clear messages were addressed;
  • cover crops to help with structure 
  • the importance of earthworms
  • erosion
  • reduced cultivations
Filming with Tom Heap

It was an interesting few hours of filming with Tom Heap, numerous camera shots, re takes and sound bites. The audience for Countryfile is wide and varied and as such the programme addresses many, sometimes complex issues.  I have to admire the craft that goes into the final edit, mixing library footage for explanation with 'live footage' which brings our farms and countryside to life.

There were many more areas that could have been covered;
  • rotations
  • cultivation timings
  • controlled traffic
  • organic manures
  • soil's nutrient composition
  • mycorrhizal fungi and other beneficial soil flora and fauna

Cover crops can help our soil, if we can get their management and cost right

The GWCT Allerton Project is always looking to develop and demonstrate practical solutions for growers and farmers. It's collaborations with numerous industry partners in the public, private and charitable sectors gives us a good understanding of the issues surrounding profitable farming and environmental responsibility. If we can address both, to create win wins, then farming and environment becomes much more cohesive.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Meadow Mania

No words are really necessary.... all taken from the same field at Loddington this week




Saturday, 20 June 2015

Digging for victory with healthy soils

Reproduced press release from GWCT

A deep soil pit in a field of Spring Barley enabled Alastair Leake to explain the layers of the soil, the significance of burrowing, feeding and casting of earthworms and their ability to help withstand extreme weather eventsThe United Nations has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils with the aim of helping to raise awareness of why soils are important for food security and the environment. By its very nature without this essential element we would not be able to grow food, provide wildlife habitats, prevent flooding or have clean water.
Celebrating this theme, the National Farmers Union (NFU) together with the GWCT’s Allerton Project in Leicestershire, held a thought-provoking event with a range of experts explaining the latest research findings on soil research as well as describing how cultivation and innovation is helping farmers lead the way to achieve healthy soils for the benefit of the environment, crop yields and people.

Attended by nearly 50 farmers, NFU members, industry advisers, researchers and policy makers, including representatives from Defra and the Environment Agency, this important event was chaired by Minette Batters, deputy president of the NFU who started by saying “The Year of Soils is a vital opportunity for the NFU to showcase some of the amazing work that farmers are doing.”

Similarly, Phil Jarvis of GWCT started his presentation by stating “Farmers do a lot for soil and the environment and don’t shout loud enough about it.” This view was mirrored by all the expert speakers who presented their current research findings on managing soil which included Dr Alastair Leake from the GWCT Allerton Project, Dr Ron Stobart from NIAB TAG and Ian Matts from Yara. In addition, Richard Bramley, farmer and NFU Environment Forum member, gave a detailed insight into the challenges and benefits of managing his soil sustainably from personal experience on his own farm in Yorkshire.

The audience heard how research and current practice was working to overcome problems such as soil erosion, compaction and flooding by adopting emerging techniques such as strip and min-till, to more established practices such as cover crops, buffer strips and beetle banks .

The discussions which followed focussed on the future challenges facing soil management including what farmers, researchers and policy makers should do to bring agriculture back into the limelight. Dr Alastair Leake from the GWCT’s Allerton Project highlighted how soil management can make farmers resilient to climate change by adding, “Changes to cultivation techniques can help to build a resilient soil, that can withstand more frequent and exceptional weather events such as rainfall and drought. This will be vital as we go forward so that we can continue to farm our food efficiently while caring for the environment.”

Minette Batters, summed up at the end of the event saying "The year of the soils is a vital opportunity for the NFU to showcase some of the amazing work that farmers are doing. Soil is the most important asset of any farm, and it's very clear from the farmers here today that it's their absolute priority to look after it.

“This event at the Allerton Project has shown how food production works in harmony, as well as enhancing the farmed environment. I am therefore delighted that this government has committed to a long term food and farming strategy. This is essential if we are going to have sustainable, resilient farms that can manage climate change whilst continuing to produce food and care for our treasured environment." Mrs Batters, went on to add, "With a UK population of 60 million people, set to rise to 70 million in the next decade, food and farming needed to be at the heart of Government and that the A in Defra should once again stand for agriculture.”

The afternoon session involved a tour of the Allerton Project Farm to see research in action which stimulated much conversation about the differencing soil management practices utilised across the diverse soil types in the UK. Sited amongst the productive fields were examples of machinery – Sumo, Dale and Claydon drills that are used by the Allerton project to direct drill seeds into the untilled land. A deep soil pit in a field of Spring Oats enabled Alastair Leake to explain the layers of the soil, the significance of burrowing, feeding and casting of earthworms and their ability to help withstand extreme weather events

Richard Barnes, from seed suppliers Kings was also on hand to explain work on cover crops and how these are an important part of the mix to ensure soil health. Top of the cover crops with Richard are currently radish, vetch, rye, oats, phacelia and buckwheat. These seed mixes produce a diverse range of soil crops which in-time reduce soil compaction and improve structure.

Concluding the day, Jim Egan from the Allerton Project and co-ordinator of the event said, “There are lots of farmers doing good things and they are learning about new techniques and challenges all the time. But to pull this all together we need practical research and demonstration and we saw that in ample amounts at this event today.”

The NFU and GWCT are grateful for the sponsorship provided by Yara and Kings.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Sunshine Sunday

Well what a day Open Farm Sunday was this year, hard to estimate numbers but getting  towards 500 visitors to the Allerton Project in the last few days. It is time for another photo blog, so here goes...

Tent Team

Tents ready....

Sheep ready... although they don't look that bothered about all the fuss..

Combine and tractors ready.... will anybody turn up?

yep.. car park looking good....

Mr Kelloggs..... showing how their breakfast cereal is grown. We also had stalls selling honey, eggs, ice cream, wool and cider......all locally produced

The fire brigade turned up and got loads of new recruits all under 10 years old !!

Jim Egan explaining what we do and grow at the Allerton Project
We made 18 tractor and trailer trips around the farm...

Looking at spring oats..

....winter wheat, woodland, ponds, wild flowers and much, much more

Thanks to all the team, Richard, Dianna, Rachel, Margaret, Geoff, Arthur, Nicola, Clemmie, Ruth, Ben, Michael, Chris S , Chris N, Jim, Alastair, John, Katy, Sarah, Sofi.
Thanks to all the visitors, exhibitors and stall holders
Over and out for another year.... a date for your diary is Open Farm Sunday, 5th June 2016