Swap ideas, try something new

Welcome to my first blog as a AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds monitor farmer. We’ve now had two very well attended meetings with a third about to take place this week. I thank everyone who has taken the time to join us and I hope all the future meetings are as well supported.

A recent conversation with a local farmer soon turned to the Monitor Farm programme and his comment was “now you’re a monitor farmer we now know who to ask if we have any problems”. If only. However, it sums up well why Monitor Farms exist. They’re a good platform for farmers to meet, exchange ideas and possibly try something new, which can only be a good thing.

If there are any topics that you feel the programme could address then please come along to the meetings and get involved. I don’t think I’d like to try growing mangoes at Ancroft but I welcome any suggestions.

The first idea to be trialled as part of the Monitor Farm programme is a field of winter beans to compare to spring beans and winter OSR which we currently use as our break crops. The variety is Honey and the field was sown on 4 November in perfect conditions, prior to the weather breaking 24 hours later and a prolonged period of rain. The field had been ploughed and pressed and the beans were sown using a tine seed drill fitted with bean coulters and a range of seed rates (18 – 35 seeds m2) were used. The seedbed was excellent.  Possibly too good, given the quantity of rain that subsequently fell and some parts of the field have suffered. Despite this, most of the beans have now emerged. It will be interesting to see how they compare to other break crops and of course when we get to harvest them.

On the farm it’s been a busy but kind winter with the usual jobs. Lime was spread onto fields destined for spring crops prior to drainage work then ploughing, hedge cutting, woodchip processed, staff holidays, more drainage work, some meetings, some office work, more drainage work, OSR, feed barley and wheat wagons to load, BPS applied,  pigeons to scare (lots of them this year) and now it’s March.

Drainage _work _Ancroft

Drainage work…

Thoughts are now turning to the spring workload which commenced with some P & K being applied to fields which we could travel. That was most of the fields, given we’ve only had 10mm of rain in February. The ploughed fields are drying up nicely and no doubt we will see drills out soon. It will be very tempting to start sowing the beans when the soil is this dry, despite it being cold. Generally the crops are looking well, although they lack bloom. Some warmth now will brighten them up. Typically for the time of year the barley is looking sorry for itself and the OSR is suffering from weeks of pigeon abuse. Let’s hope spring arrives soon and 2015 is good year for everyone – it  certainly looks promising at this stage.



Richard Reed farms a mix of owned and contract farmed land and contracting totalling 1170ha with his father near Berwick-upon-Tweed. He grows winter wheat for biscuit wheat or distilling, oilseed rape, winter barley for malt, feed, and seed, spring barley, and tried 3ha spring beans in 2014. During the Monitor Farm programme, Richard hopes to look at improving soil structure and condition, work force succession, grain marketing and machinery and establishment costs.