Top arable issues in Cambridgeshire: Huntingdon Monitor Farm opening meeting

The main challenges on this farm are black-grass, disease, cabbage stem flea beetle, soil type and the weather. Black-grass is now the main driver of our cropping choices – it’s a challenge and I don’t think we can rely on the solution coming out of a can. On rotations, there’s also a question-mark over OSR for me now, with the loss of neonicotinoids and the possible issues around endocrine disruptors.

We’re also looking at improving our soil organic matter and during the Monitor Farm project we’ll be delving into our soils with Philip Wright. We’ve found that cover crops on our heavy ground have improved our soil structure and removed moisture, so we have planted 50ha of cover crops this year to see how we get on. We’re also going to be grazing sheep – I think livestock have a role to play now.



Russell McKenzie farms 750ha on predominantly heavy clay on the border between Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. He grows seed on contract as well as soft and feed wheat, and his usual rotation is wheat, OSR and spring beans. A Nuffield Scholar, Russ has been researching direct drilling in extreme weather in 2013 and 2014.