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04 Dec 2023

Sustainability focus at The CropTec Show

Sustainability focus at The CropTec Show
Improving the sustainability of arable production was the overarching focus of discussion and presentations at CropTec last week (November 29 and 30).

Mark Tucker, sustainability and business solutions manager for Yara UK which sponsored the Crop Nutrition seminar, said: “CropTec has always been all about helping growers with productivity and yield, but that has now changed to sustainable productivity and yield.”

Session chair Sir Peter Kendall said discussion of crop nutrition options was timely and important. “If we’re going to feed a world of 8 or 9 billion people, we need smart nutrition. The discussion about how we combine environmental management with nutrient management is absolutely critical.” He called on Government to fund carbon footprinting through the Sustainable Farming Incentive.

Farmers shared their experiences on the CropTec stage in a special session sponsored by Horsch UK. Jack Williams of AG Wright & Son said that communication between farmers was important for change. He said: “It could be something as simple as a WhatsApp group with other local farm managers to discuss thoughts and ideas.”

Jo Franklin discussed the success of her farming business Kaiapoi, since she and partner Rob Hodgkins founded it in 2013. A focus on organic matter and nutrient management, including soil sampling and scrutinising cultivations, have all played a part in their success. “Get to know and take responsibility for your own nutrient management – no one else is going to do it for you,” she advised.

Panel discussions at Anglian Water’s Future of Farming Hub explored a range of issues facing growers from water management to mental wellbeing to soil health.

“As farmers we need to do our bit for the soil, but we also need the Environment Agency and government to do their bit by realising that we need to produce food,” said Lincolnshire farmer and NFU Council member Andrew Ward MBE.

Farmland’s role of storing water needed recognition, said Martin Williams, farmer and co-chair of Farm Herefordshire. “We talk about public money for public goods - should there be a payment for allowing water to stay on farmland?”

UPL’s Smart Farming Hub hosted two speakers. Thomas Gent, UK Market Lead for Agreena discussed the opportunities of carbon certificates while Miles Taylor, UPL’s technical development manager, outlined the role of bio-insecticides in tackling resistance to existing chemistry and problems with approvals of new products.

“Bio-insecticides are a way of farming with nature rather than against, but need to be used in conjunction with IPM practices,” Miles said.

Dr Tom Jenkins, deputy challenge director for Innovate UK, said that the Transforming Food Production Hub had been an invaluable way to connect with farmers, growers and businesses involved in crops and soils across the UK. “It was a great platform to share information about the diverse innovation funding opportunities in the UK, including the Defra Farming Innovation Programme and Innovate UK BridgeAI, fostering collaboration and advancement within the agricultural community.” 

The Sprayer Test Drive gave visitors the opportunity to get behind the wheel of seven different models. The line-up included the Horsch Leeb PT self-propelled, Amazone’s Pantera 4504, the Sands Infinity self-propelled from SAMS, Bateman’s RB35 self-propelled, the Hardi AEON Centuraline trailed sprayer from Agrifac, and Farol with the John Deere R41 series and Mazzotti MAF 4080HP.

Joel Robertson, UK product specialist from Amazone, said: “CropTec provides us with a very focused clientele, who are coming to the show with a purpose.”

Farol’s group sprayer specialist Alex Pascoe added: “It has been a great opportunity for us to demonstrate what the latest John Deere technology can do for farms to an engaged audience.”

New to CropTec was the Regen Zone hosted by Soil Association Accreditation. Sarah Hathaway, Head of Technical, stressed that farming still needed to be productive: “We need to move towards regenerative farming, but without trading sustainability for profitability.

“We have had a very healthy attendance at our seminars, which have had a theme of soil health and promoting organic farming. A few years ago, we could never have imagined such engagement in the topic, so it highlights just where the industry is heading and the fact that CropTec is a great platform for forward-thinking farmers.”

Jon Haines explained how alley cropping systems could benefit yields of winter wheat by up to 16% as seen in trials in Germany. “Agroforestry is about planting new trees, but also learning how to manage and incorporate trees already on your farm into a farming system,” he said.

Another first was Agri-Tech Centres’ Start Up Zone, which hosted seven new businesses. Event and communications manager Monique White said: “It has also been a pleasure to sponsor The Startup Zone, which gave a platform to a range of innovative businesses, who, like us, are trying to drive substantial positive change in the industry.”

CropTec event director Verity Hyland said: “Our new venue made CropTec accessible to farmers and growers from a wider area which meant we welcomed lots of first-time visitors and exhibitors alongside many familiar faces.

“It’s been great to see lively discussion around the sector’s most pressing topics, particularly increasing productivity while keeping a close eye on environmental responsibilities. Plans are already underway for next year’s event, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Stoneleigh on 27 and 28 November 2024.”

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