Benoit Lavier, Etormay, France – 7 November 2015

My next visit was to see Benoit Lavier

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Benoit is an arable farmer about an hour from Alexandra and Yann. He is also the President of APAD ( Association for the Promotion of Conservation Agriculture) www.apad.asso.fr. APAD has about 350 members. It is similar to BASE but has slightly different aims, for example, it is more strict on  promoting no-till, not min till. Also, they do more lobbying at the French government. For example they will have at a stand at the COP meeting in Paris.

After lunch we had a look around his machinery and farm.

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I think he is the first farmer this week with something different to a JD 750a: he has a Semeato. The reason for this is when they first started to look into no-till the guy advising them was Alfred Gassler and he knew about Semeato. Bernard seems very happy with it.

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Recently they have added a row cleaner and they use this when planting cover crops and OSR. They have found it improves germination.

We then went to the fields. The first field was of wheat:

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Bernard has had the same problem as Yann with mice, meaning that he has had to cultivate some fields. This field was cultivated this year but it was interesting to see that the structure was still very good and there were lots of worms. Benoit was worried that cultivating would upset all the hard work done under no-till, but he probably had the longest worms I have seen:

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We then looked at a field of OSR after wheat. He reckons he lost 1.5t/ha of wheat due to mice last year, so it was cultivated. Part of the field was in a companion crop of beans, vetch and lentil.

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This field in the past has had compaction problems but now under no-till was looking good. In this area he had germanium problems so this is why he had this mix. The other part of the field was a mix of OSR plus lucerne

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This is the first time he has tried this. He hopes to leave the lucerne as a permanent mulch like Hubert Charpentier has done.

After looking around various other fields we went and chatting for a long time in his office about all things agriculture.

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Benoit is a very intelligent guy and also very generous with his time. In the evening we had dinner with his family (five children). At lunch I noticed that his eldest son Pierre had a Scotland t-shirt on. I asked whether this was for my benefit! Then, in the evening his 10-year old daughter came down with an“I love London” t-shirt. His children also had an English lesson over dinner and I a French one! Benoit has a wonderful farm and a wonderful family. Thanks Benoit for your time.

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AndrewHoward

AndrewHoward

Andrew Howard farms 345ha in a family partnership near Ashford, Kent, growing winter and spring wheat, winter and spring oilseed rape, spring oats, spring barley, winter barley, and field beans. His soils range from heavy weald clay to light sand. Andrew is a committee member of BASE UK, and member of LEAF and the Institute of Agricultural Management. As a Nuffield Scholar, Andrew will study companion cropping around the world.

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