Fantastic end to the winter programme

A rather hectic winter was fittingly closed with a very positive Monitor Farm meeting on soil compaction and cover crops. A good turnout met and were led through on-farm trials on the differences in compaction caused by differing tyre pressures on drilling tractors and harvest trailers by Phillip Wright of Wright Solutions and Gordon Brookes of Michelin. Lots of data had been collected by trials done on the previous day running machines and trailers at different tyre pressures and loading. Data ranged from fuel use, wheel slip and compaction, but what was most interesting was that the differences were visual to the naked eye! The level of interest and questions was impressive. Take home message is that a tyre will either make or break your soils.

The second part of the meeting was looking at the 25 acres of cover crops try-outs led by Andrew Goodinson of Hutchinson’s. The 10 different mixes, established by two different methods with two different N rates, showed increasable differences and costs. Lots has been written about some of the mixes that seem fashionable at present but being part of the Monitor Farm scheme has enabled us to see what these crops actually achieve on our soils. Crops that did particularly well were mustard and tillage radish. Most disappointing was the most expensive, rye and vetch. Lots of interest in moving the try-out forward into next year.

Bovril With Tillage Radish

Bovril with some tillage radish

Recently we also held the second meeting covering benchmarking. The focus this time was on variable costs, especially spray costs. It became very apparent that direct comparisons are very difficult due to differing agronomy agreements, and differing products used. The next focus is on fixed costs: I feel this is going to show the real variability!! I am really pleased with the openness and honesty of all who are participating.

On the farm, crops are coming through the winter ok. There is potential there, which is better than some recent seasons. The only real concern is game bird damage on the OSR, but not much I can do about this. Will hit the averages, but it is one of the hazards of estate farming. Spring work is just starting, and I am trying to be patient until soils warm slightly. Along with all the other variable rates we are doing a trial on vari-rate N – it will be interesting to see if it is economically viable. Coming into spring we are feeling hope for the coming season, crops with potential, a positive Monitor Farm season and hopefully a successful end to recruitment.

Cows at Fawley

Waiting for new arrivals at Fawley



Mark Wood is a farm manager in Fawley, half way between Hereford and Ross-on-Wye. The farm is 250ha owned, 250ha rented and 500ha contract-farmed. Mark has three full time staff, and is a member of the Rosemaund Farmers Association. The issues Mark and the farm are facing include precision farming, staff succession and achieving consistent yields under variable conditions. Mark has hosted trial work for other organisations in the past.