Arable Business Groups and Monitor Farms

26 March 2014

It doesn’t seem long since I last wrote, but I now realise it was just over a month ago. A lot has happened since then, with dry weather finally arriving to allow drilling of spring crops to start, as well as catching up with top-dressing and ploughing. As seems to be the recent pattern, the guys in the far north got their drills out first, and in to ideal conditions.

Our monitor farmers have now shifted their focus on to getting their own work done. After a busy winter of meetings and events, thoughts are now veering towards what things they should be trying out for this growing season. Alistair Hodge and the Borders group are looking at variable rate N applications, and also granular vs. liquid N. Danny and Alison Milne and their Fife group are monitoring new wheat varieties on a field scale, particularly hybrids.

In the meantime, we’re getting the Arable Business Groups (ABGs) set up around the new Monitor Farms – so if you’re interested, and haven’t already been contacted, give me a call. The ABGs are a highly effective vehicle for farmers to share more detailed ideas and information around their businesses, than is feasible within the full monitor farm group. There is also a stronger focus on business outcomes and financial data, with one meeting  per year devoted to analysing the financial outcome of the harvest – prices and costs as well as yield. This highlights the issues which the group will then tackle in the remaining meetings of that year via visits, speakers and open discussion.

IAACS forms are now out, and particular care should be taken in filling out this year’s form as it is still not clear what, if any, implications there may be for future SFP entitlement. In between spring crop establishment, think about who and what should be going in to your form. At the same time, think about the wider implications of CAP reform on your business – implications on cashflow in December; greening implications on cropping; EFA requirement etc.

My colleagues south of the border have just announced the appointment of the Monitor Farms for England and Wales, so well done to them. They had 136 applications between the four of them, so it was a huge task to get down to the final eight farms. The exciting thing for me is that AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds now have a network of Monitor Farm projects stretching from Inverness to Devon, and the scope for growers to be able to share ideas and knowledge is huge. No independent organisation has done this before, and it’s now up to us at AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds to ensure the infrastructure is there to allow effective knowledge exchange to happen.

Gavin Dick - Scotland

Gavin Dick - Scotland

AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Manager (Scotland). Previously a business specialist with SAC, working to broaden farmers’ business management skills.