Demonstrating the trials and tribulations of arable farming in the West
When I’m meeting a prospective new monitor farmer, I always make sure they are happy to embrace try-outs and demonstrations. It’s a key part of the Monitor Farm programme and it really brings discussions to life.
This year my monitor farmers have already done me proud in this respect. While tackling a somewhat tricky harvest each has also been working away to plan various on-farm try-outs and demonstrations for their groups to follow over the coming cropping year. Because of this I am extremely excited for the year ahead.
Herefordshire co-monitor farmer, Martin Williams is investigating the impact of different organic matter treatments on his farm. A baseline set of measurements will be taken, to include physical and biological soil analysis and earthworm assessments. The trial area will then be monitored over the next three years using a range of parameters including soil analysis, earthworm numbers and yield. This will help the group analyse and evaluate how soil organic matter has changed.
Experts suggest that good second wheat performance is one of the key ways growers can improve their farm incomes but in the West we have generally experienced a poor growing year for the crop. With this in mind, Martin is also trying a selection of seed treatments which are designed to improve reduction of issues at establishment and encourage root growth in second wheats.
Things are also busy at the other end of the county with the other co-monitor farmer, Russell Price, getting stuck into his term as Monitor Farmer. Russell will host an open day next summer, showcasing trials and demonstrations run by AHDB and ADAS. At the event, local famers will be able to view a huge variety of trials and demonstrations in the comfort of one site. We will also be able to evaluate the impact of the nine-plot cultivation trial which Russell is running at the same venue.
Finally, in Shropshire, Adrian Joynt will be investigating alternative crop options to help him fine-tune his already diverse rotation. This year he will be growing hybrid rye, triticale and second wheat on his lighter land. Through this demonstration the group will be able to follow the trials and tribulations of growing each crop from point of establishment through to the end marketing.
All of the above farmers have also established the same four cover crop mixes but on varying soil types. At the end of the year this should allow us to evaluate the impact of each mix for that individual farm scenario.
Needless to say we have plenty of content to feed our appetites in the West. I am extremely grateful to all who have helped bring this all together behind the scenes. After all of the planning there is already a distinct air of excitement to get this year’s winter meeting programme underway. I can honestly say that I don’t think there is another programme out there which will provide such a variety of topics and angles for local viewers to address their challenges.