Winter meetings – aiming for quality and quantity

1 December 2014

We all know that November to February in the arable calendar is meeting season – a welcome break from field work allows for a valuable catch up on facts and figures, discussions and debate. A chance to take a step back from the day to day pressures of growing crops the rest of the year, take stock and plan the way ahead.

As you would hope, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds activity is no exception. Through these four winter months in the east region, we’re running 12 Monitor Farm meetings, seven benchmarking meetings, four milling wheat breakfasts, two agronomy workshops, one malting barley breakfast and one grain storage and marketing day. We’ll also be attending many other industry events in the region to make sure we get out and about and catch up with as many of our levy payers as possible.

I obviously don’t expect anyone to come to all of these, but with a good geographical spread, I would urge you to get to one or two of the closest to you. As we roll out the Monitor Farms and Arable Business Groups in the east, my aim is to have a meeting base within 40 minutes of every grower in the region. We’re all too busy to spend time travelling hours to a meeting so let’s make them as local (and as relevant) as we can.

This new approach for AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds has certainly proved popular with the attendance at the Monitor Farm meetings held so far in the 40 to 60 range. This is an ideal size – big enough for a meaningful impact on the industry, but small enough to foster lively debate. If you haven’t been able to make one yet, here’s a flavour of what we’ve covered.

It will come as no surprise that precision farming has been the number one meeting topic so far. Identifying the pros and cons of the various systems has certainly created a lot of lively debate. The groups agreed that checking compatibility before buying; arranging sufficient operator training; and having a secure and logical approach to data management were three key steps to ensuring successful use of the various technologies available. But, even after attaching values to the costs and benefits, accurately calculating the financial benefits of adopting them still proved to be tricky. Further endorsement for the benchmarking that lies ahead.

In a close second has been the similarly controversial subject of crop nutrition. Two equally respected industry experts with very different views presented their optimum strategies to the groups and compared them to those of the Monitor Farmers themselves. This generated some fascinating debate on how best to push yields while controlling costs. Most of those that attended said they would be reviewing their own nutrition programmes in light of these sessions.

To find out what other meetings we’ve got coming up and to keep up to date with what’s happening on the Monitor Farm nearest to you, check out the relevant page of our website – go to:

and then either Royston, Colchester, Stowmarket or Huntingdon

I look forward to seeing you at one of the meetings coming up soon. Don’t miss your chance: it won’t be long before field work takes over once again.



Tim joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with more than 20 years of farm business experience in the East of England. Based at Huntingdon, Tim previously worked at the CLA, where he was Regional Adviser for the East of England. Trained in agricultural business management, Tim has also worked as a farm business consultant, specialising in the direct management of farms and contracting arrangements.