Looking forward to learning
Three red kites are wheeling over my field of winter barley as I write this. It’s definitely one of the perks of farming in Oxfordshire, although what’s good weather for watching birds of prey is also good weather for farming so I don’t get to do much bird spotting!
I’m the farm manager for Hendred Farm Partnership in East Hendred, near Wantage. The farm is owned by the Eyston family, who can trace their history way back to Thomas More (1478 – 1535).
Spring has been a busy time for me, with one man down due to injury, but I’ve just about been coping. We farm around 800ha in total – combineable crops and some sheep to tidy up the grass fields. It’s a five year rotation of oilseed rape, winter wheat, beans, winter wheat and then either second wheat, winter barley or spring barley.
The question is, how can we grow our crops and use less inputs? One of the big things that drives me is the wastefulness of scarce resources. We farmers keep piling on inputs mainly derived from fossil fuels, and we need to stand back and think of ways to use these resources in a more efficient way.
One of our other major interests is soil management. One of the problems in farming has been that since the Second World War we’ve seen soil as just something to stand the crops up in. But actually the soil can provide quite a lot of services for our crops. If we can get the soil working well we can cut back on our inputs. And especially when weather patterns are getting more unreliable with climate change, then if our soil is healthy with good organic matter levels we’ve got water-holding capacity in drought years and better workability when it’s wet.
I’ve recently brought controlled traffic farming to East Hendred to reduce the impact of heavy machinery on the soil, saving the farm time and fuel and helping to keep the soil healthy.
Controlled Traffic Farming at harvest-time in East Hendred
Being a Monitor Farmer and in the Arable Business Group should be a win-win situation for us and the other local farmers involved. If we can get a group of engaged local farmers together, hopefully the ideas will start to flow and we can all drive our businesses forward on a steeper improvement curve. Our opening meeting is on 20 June, and it would be great to see as many of you there as possible. Please email AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Regional Manager Philip Dolbear if you’d like to come along.