John Pawsey, Shimpling Park Farm, Suffolk – 13th of May 2016

The second visit of my UK Nuffield mini trip was to see John Pawsey

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John farms about 3500 acres organically. He converted to organic in 1999 and grows Winter wheat, Spring Oats, winter beans and Spring Barley undersown with a 2 year ley which he now grazes with sheep, a new edition to the farm this year. The other new edition to John’s farm, the System Cameleon, is one of the reasons I wanted to see John.

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This is the first such machine to be imported into the UK. What makes it unique is that it is a drill and also a inter row hoe. John runs an 8.8m CTF which fits the Cameleon in perfectly. When I got there the machine was busy hoeing

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Above is the coulter that drills and hoes. It drills in 25cm rows and the hoe covers 80% of the ground

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It really is an impressive machine and does a very accurate job of hoeing. John bought it for a couple of reasons. Firstly as a drill it has a consistent seeding depth, unlike his horsch. This means that when he blind weeds he doesn’t pull out the shallow seeded plants. Also as a hoe it manages to enter the ground in any condition due to the tungsten tip unlike the Garford. As it is so accurate as a hoe it also means it opens up many opportunities for undersowing consistently, intercropping, relay cropping etc.

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John has become the distributor for the System Cameleon in the UK. If I was ever to convert to organic (no plans­čśÇ) this would be the first bit of equipment I would buy.

On John’s farm he is also hosting a field lab which is looking at Black Grass control in cereals through sheep grazing

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Above at the top and bottom of the picture has been grazed at GS30-31 by sheep and the middle has not. As can be seen the middle had a lot of BG in head and looks worse than the other. From a quick inspection it seems a success but it looks like the BG in the grazed area is just delayed not killed. They were doing plant counts the day I was there so the results are not known yet. Whether the delayed grass BG produced less seed, I am not sure.

John’s other recent addition to the farm is a flock of New Zealand Romney sheep. These have been introduced to make use of the 2yr leys in the rotation, aid soil health and add diversity to the farm

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I really enjoyed my morning with John. He is someone who is always looking at ways to improve and is not afraid to try something different. I was really impressed with the farm and the crops. Thank you John.

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Christian Abadie, Laguian Mazous, France – 11th of November 2015

Being an arable farmer I sometimes forget about the livestock boys but the visit today reminded me that the practice of companion cropping and intercropping has just as much relevance to the livestock industry. In fact it is probably easier to utilise and see the benefits than in arable crops because you don’t have to worry about harvest separation as it goes in whole crop, weed control is not such an issue as a few weeds in the bottom will be cut and ensiled. So today my blog is for the livestock boys.

The visit today was with Christian Abadie (centre with the knife, Sarah Singla to his right was my host for the evening)

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Christian is well know around here. In fact I gate crashed another farmers meeting. About 40 farmers from near Sarah’s had got on a bus and driven 4 hours just to see him for the afternoon and then they went home in the evening. The reason seems to be is because he is getting amazing results from no-till and companion cropping. Christian has 100ha and 60 milking cows. 20 years ago he needed all of the 100ha for silage to feed his cattle now he only needs 20ha and the other 80ha he uses to grow cash crops.

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Unlike most livestock farmers Christian only harvest the cobs from the maize and leaves the stalk and leaves for the soil. This year he harvested 20t of maize with 250kg/ha of Nitrogen. When he harvests the maize he has the harvester header very high. This means there is not much residue on the ground and this means he can no till the following crop in easily. Then after he has planted the following crop he mows the stalks down and leaves it as a mulch. Previous to this crop was a whole crop of peas and triticale which was cut and ensiled in May. Christian always has at least two sometimes three crops per year and says this year from the field we were standing in he got 50t/ha of biomass.

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Next year he wants to try maize, sunflower and vetch together. He thinks between the 3 of them the silage will contain a good mix of protein and energy for the cows. As most modern varieties of sunflower are shorter than maize he wants to use older taller varieties otherwise the maize will dominate the sunflower. He in the past has used Lucerne with oats, Lucerne with maize and vetch with maize. The vetch gives the silage more protein.

Christian’s son is going to take over the farm next year and wants to expand so they have built a huge new building

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I guess he wants to house a lot more of these

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From what I understand the cows are inside permanently.

Below is Christian’s planter

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He plants on narrow rows. 37.5cms instead of 75cms. He has seen a lot better yields and less weeds. This is the second time I have heard this. When I spoke to a weed scientist in Manitoba he said wide rowed corn was stupidity in terms of weed control as there is so much bare soil. Apparently I found out today that maize is planted in wide rows due to historical reasons. They used to need the space between the rows to be able to fit horses up them. I always thought it was due to the modern harvesting equipment.

His drill is a Semeato

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From a non livestock person I found this visit very interesting.

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Speaking to the visiting livestock farmers afterwards they too found it very thought provoking. Thank you Christian for your time and once I got used to the strong accent I understood most of it I think!