My presentation at the Nuffield conference is now online. 2 years work in 12 minutes
My presentation at the Nuffield conference is now online. 2 years work in 12 minutes
The second visit of my UK Nuffield mini trip was to see John Pawsey
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.
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
Above is the coulter that drills and hoes. It drills in 25cm rows and the hoe covers 80% of the ground
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.
John has become the distributor for the System Cameleon in the UK. If I was ever to convert to organic (no plans😀) 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
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
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.
It’s been over three months since my last post. Nuffield travels have been put on hold until spring work had been completed on the farm. We are a bit quieter now with everything planted so I took the opportunity to make a couple of visits in the UK. My first visit was to Stephen Briggs.
Stephen is a 2011 UK Nuffield ( and also didn’t realise I was taking a photo, not my best shot!). He did his Scholarship on Agroforestry, which is growing trees and annual crops and/or livestock together. Stephen’s home farm is 250 acres and is a council farm. Stephen is a first generation farmer and spent a while trying to get a tenancy and eventually landed Whitehall farm. As the farm is only 250 acres he felt he had to do something different to make it viable, add value and add income streams. This meant converting to organic and 6 1/2 years ago planting apples trees on 52 ha of his arable fields
The trees are 13 different varieties of which around half are heritage varieties. They are planted on 3m strips of pollen and nectar mix which is in HLS. The apples are currently used to make apple juice. They receive no inputs apart from pruning. Last year he grew 25t of apples and hopes this yield keeps improving as the trees matures. Currently Stephen thinks he gets 10% extra produce from the farm compared to arable cropping alone and this should keep increasing
There is 24m of arable crops between the trees. This fits well with his machinery sizes. He is on a 6m CTF including a Tyne drill:
A camera guided Garford inter row hoe:
Stephen soil is incredible:
It has Soil Organic Matter of 23% and releases about 150kg/N per ha. It has a couple of downfalls though: it is very prone to wind erosion and due to root crops being grown intensively before, it is now structureless. Stephen hopes the trees will help solve both those issues.
In his crop rotation he grows oats and wheat. Sometimes he also grows vegeltables such as broccoli and beetroot. His crops looked very clean and healthy. Below are oats:
Not satisfied with just Agroforestry, Stephen is hoping to build a farm shop and education centre soon. In his spare time he also consults for other organic farmers and also found time to write a book. I had a very interesting afternoon with Stephen and his set up makes you think of the possibilities at home.
Stephen thank you for your time and good luck!
Today I spent the day listening to Dr Dwayne Beck of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, South Dakota at a BASE UK (www.base-uk.co.uk ) meeting in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
Dr Beck’s main interest is in no till, cover crops and especially rotations. During the day he highlighted the importance of very diverse rotations including stacked rotations. He highlighted the importance of having a rotation containing warm season broadleaves and grasses and cool season broadleaves and grasses. He also emphasised the importance of having a two year gap between crop types not just one, which is commonplace here. For example: winter wheat, maize, spring peas, Winter OSR, Winter Barley, Spring Oats, spring linseed, Winter Beans. The above rotation is very complex and may not be practical but it has 2 broadleaf crops followed by 2 cereals but also two winter crops followed by two spring crops. The idea is that it allows you 2 years to get on top grass weeds in the broadleaf part of the rotation and 2 years to get on top of BLW in the cereal part of the rotation. The mixing between drilling dates and harvest dates stops predictability, so weeds are always guessing along with insects and disease. This type of approach has been shown to dramatically reduce weed pressure and also input costs.
Also Dr Beck talked about seed balls. The this is where you coat seeds in a clay substance and then broadcast the seed so need for a drill. The idea is the coating makes the seed weatherproof and more likely to germinate, which is always a problem with broadcasting. I like the idea of no drill. It would be the end of the “which drill is best debate”, hallelujah!!
Dr. Beck is also experimenting with intercropping. He is growing forage corn and forage soyabean together. Also Corn with a living mulch of Alfalfa. My ears really pricked up at this point as this is what I am studying on my Nuffield. Dr. Beck has kindly offered to show me around Dakota Lakes farm so off to South Dakota I am going!
Www.dakotalakes.com is the research farm’s website and there is a lot of information on this site in the publications section. Well worth a read. Overall a productive day spent with 100 other like minded people.
My official first trip of my Nuffield scholarship involved grappling with the motorway system at 5.30am and it was shut! So country route it was for the last part of my journey. My destination was Farmcare in Leicestershire to see the Agrovista Companion cropping trials with Mark Hemmant, Technical Manager, as my host. In their trials Agrovista are experimenting with different establishment techniques, seeding rates and seeding mixtures with interesting results.
Mark prefers using Berseem clover as a companion due to its deep rooting properties where is I a few years ago struggled to get Berseem clover established. They have reduced seeding rates down to as low as 5 kg per hectare and still seen an advantage from companion cropping. When seeding rates are down to 5kg/ha the seed is applied in the OSR row at drilling compared to higher rates of companion seeds being broadcast.In fact they have found that there are more advantages to having seeding rates low compared to high due to the higher seedrates possibly competing with the Oilseed Rape.They have found better establishment from companion cropping, this they think it’s due to less slug problems. Also they have seen OSR rootneck increase in size in companion cropping and last year seen a yield advantage of up to half a ton hectare in companion cropping compared to without. They were also comparing establishment techniques of companion cropping and they found that the best established achieved from broadcasting was with spreading of the companion seed before drilling and tickling the seed in with an adaption on the drill.
After visiting Farmcare we went for lunch. We started at MacDonald’s for adrink and then went to a local pub for big plate of pie and veg! If this is how my lunchtimes are going to be on my Nuffield visits then I may need to run another marathon!
After lunch we visited Agrovista’s cover crop and blackgrass trial. At this site agrovista trialling the use of cover crops with species of vetch and black oats to control blackgrass by drilling a little bit later to allow one flush blackgrass before drilling and then drilling the oats at low seed rates which allows the blackgrass to come through with the cover crop.
The idea is that you get blackgrass growing with the cover crop and this helps lower the black grass seed bank. They have had success and have achieved lower blackgrass emergence in the following spring cereal compared to multiple overwinter stale seedbeds. The interesting plot for me was an early drilled mix with Phacelia. This had virtually no blackgrass growing in the bottom. It will be interesting to see which plots are cleanest in the spring crop.
It was interesting first official visit and many thanks to Mark for taking the day to show me around.