Nine new Monitor Farms have joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds’ knowledge exchange programme in England and Wales. The aim of the expanded network, to be launched in June, is to enable more farmers to take part in the programme and to benefit from the discussions.
Tim Isaac, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Interim Head of Regional Development, said: “These new Monitor Farms will fill the gaps in our geographical coverage, making it easier for more growers to get to meetings near them. Businesses across the country have already benefited from the existing farms, but growing the network to 24 will allow the programme to better reflect a range of localised conditions and help a wider cross-section of growers.”
From Dereham in Norfolk to Truro in Cornwall, the hosts represent a range of local farm sizes and enterprises. There are family farms at just over 200ha and estates of over 1,000ha. Some have other enterprises, while others are solely arable. Establishment techniques in the new tranche of Monitor Farms include ploughing and combination drilling (Warrington), strip till (Kent), and a variety of approaches to min-till.
The new Monitor Farms are:
Blandford Monitor Farm: The Cossins family have been farming at Rawston Farm since 1877. Since then the farm has expanded to 670ha with a further 385ha rented or contract farmed. The five-year arable rotation covering 600ha includes winter wheat, winter and spring barley and oilseed rape. All operations are carried out by farm staff including a combination of minimum tillage and ploughing, with grain stored on farm. The business also has 300 dairy cows and 180 head of beef cattle, the majority of which are sold through their own farm butchery. James Cossins currently runs the family business, working closely with his daughter Georgie.
Bridgnorth Monitor Farm: Adrian has been Farm Manager for the Apley Estate, just north of Bridgnorth in Shropshire, since 2011. He is responsible for 650ha of arable cropping. He runs a five-year rotation on the predominantly medium soils, which includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, oats and potatoes. A policy of minimal cultivation with rotational ploughing is employed and most of the labour and machinery required is run in-house. Grain storage and marketing is done on farm and the farm uses an independent agronomist. In addition to the arable land, the farm includes 300ha of grassland which is used for a suckler cow herd and a beef finishing unit. Tack sheep graze the grassland and stubble turnips during the winter. Adrian would like to look at variable rate nitrogen, alternative break crops, grass weed control and cover crops during the programme.
Dereham Monitor Farm: Simon has been the manager at Swanton Morley Farms, just north of Dereham in Norfolk, since 1998. He is responsible for 966ha of arable cropping, most of which is owned with some contract farmed. He runs a long rotation on the sandy clay soils which includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, beans and sugar beet. A policy of minimal cultivation with rotational ploughing is employed and all the labour and machinery required is run in-house. Grain storage and marketing is mostly done on farm and Simon does his own agronomy. In addition to the arable land, the farm includes significant areas of HLS, ELS, woodland and grassland which is used for a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle. There is also a separate organic pig enterprise.
Leicester Monitor Farm: Jack Smith is Farm Manager at Farmcare’s Stoughton Estate on the edge of Leicester. The estate extends to 1650ha, mostly owned with a further 185ha of contract farming agreements. The rotation includes winter wheat, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, spring oats and spring beans with a substantial HLS/ELS stewardship scheme. The farm operates a traditional min-till cultivations system at 32 metre tramlines and one 12 metre combine. There are four staff plus Jack and a full time administrator employed on the farm. The estate faces a number of issues including drainage, increasing black-grass, declining organic matter and an ageing grain handling system. Jack is also keen to look at widening the rotation to include more spring cropping and reducing machinery costs.
Newark Monitor Farm: John Miller is a third generation farmer at Manor Farm, Kelham, Newark on Trent. He farms 685ha on a mix of tenanted and owned land in the Trent valley. Soil type ranges from blowing sand, sharp gravels and silty clay loams to heavy clay with a rotation including winter wheat, oilseed rape, spring beans, sugar beet, forage maize, malting barley and winter oats, with the occasional field rented out for potatoes. The farm is predominantly min-till with some ploughing as required. 5000 tonnes of farmyard manure comes onto farm from a local beef unit to help improve soil organic matter content. John has just become chairman of the Nottinghamshire Farm Business Group and is keen to get a better grasp of soil management and investigate cover crops with the intention of reducing costs of production.
Northampton Monitor Farm: Tom Banks started as Farm Manager at Courteenhall Estate four years ago. The farm crops about 1,150ha, with a rotation including winter wheat, oilseed rape, peas and beans, all on a 12 metre Controlled Traffic (CTF) system. Soil types range from hanslope series clay and sandy loams to limestone brash. Precision farming is used for CTF guidance and for variable rate seed, nutrients and molluscicides. The farm has its own grain storage. Tom is keen to develop the current cover crop strategy including companion cropping and livestock to allow even less mechanical soil movement. He also plans to review the farm’s drainage which he hopes will lead to better black-grass control and get involved in benchmarking which will highlight other areas of cost control for the business.
Sittingbourne Monitor Farm: Mark Bowsher-Gibbs is farm manager for G.H Dean & Co Ltd, a long established family business farming near Sittingbourne in Kent. A mixed farm of 1,760ha, the majority of land is under a five year arable rotation, predominantly wheat, oilseed rape, beans and peas. A flock of 1,524 ewes is kept on 468ha of pasture, much of which is in HLS and there are 192ha of orchards producing pears, cherries and apples. Specific areas of interest within the 1,100ha arable enterprise centre on strip tillage and crop residue management, soil microbiology, cover cropping and CTF. Soils vary considerably from clayey coastal flats to freely draining loams with some of the higher ground having higher stone content overlying chalk.
Truro Monitor Farm: Howard and Anne Emmett farm in partnership near Truro in Cornwall. The all-arable unit extends to 192ha with a further 49ha contract farmed. All operations are carried out in hand including ploughing and min-till. Medium and heavy soils over shillet support a rotation including winter wheat, winter and spring barley and, more recently, cauliflower. The farm has extensive grain storage and Anne also runs a country kitchen tea-shop on the farm. Howard and Anne’s objectives are to grow and increase the profitability of the farm.
Warrington Monitor Farm: Robert Cross is a partner in a family farm with his father John and grows over 280ha of combinable crops on a seven-year rotation. He grows wheat, barley, oats, spring beans and oilseed rape in the Warrington and Knutsford areas of Cheshire. Robert is keen on improving soil structure and organic matter as well as establishing greater understanding of the oat and oilseed rape yield barriers. He currently serves on the North West Combinable Crops Board for the NFU as well as co-ordinating the Debate and Speechmaking Competition for Cheshire YFC.
Find out more about the Monitor Farm programme at cereals.ahdb.org.uk/monitorfarms or on twitter with the hashtag #monitorfarm.
Scottish Farmers will also this year have the opportunity to benefit from nine new Monitor Farms, thanks to a collaborative project between Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.