Twitter: @russbmckenzie

Biog: Russ farms 750ha, spread over 17 miles and four units, between Cambs and Beds. He grows predominantly first wheats (mostly for seed) with winter barley, oilseed rape, spring beans and spring barley. He describes himself as not form a farming family, but as having loved everything about farming since a very young age, starting with a harvest job on a local farm when he was 13.  He graduated from Writtle College with a BSc in Agriculture and then took on a trainee manager’s position with Albanwise Farming in Norfolk.  Russ is BASIS and FACTS qualified and is a partner in his wife’s family farming business which he jointly manages along with John Sheard Farms.  He has recently undertaken a Nuffield Farming scholarship, sponsored by AHDB, researching how the best no-till practitioners across the world manage to make the system work in both the wettest and driest of conditions which took him to Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, USA, Brazil and Argentina.  “I love being involved in such a fantastic industry and outside of work I am along suffering England Cricket fan, husband and father to two lovely (sometimes) children!” Oh and he’s an avid Tweeter!

No-till Nuffield study influences farming approach
Things have changed on the farm following my Nuffield, the market price situation and blackgrass.
Our oilseed rape area has been reduced for three reasons – the move to a more balanced rotation, because we felt it wasn’t helping with blackgrass control and because the current prices have resulted in diminishing returns for what is an expensive crop to grow.  However, we have looked to increase premiums by growing HOLL rape for this coming autumn alongside some of our stable hybrid varieties like Extrovert & Harper.
There has been an increase in our milling wheat acreage with Skyfall bringing feed wheat performance along with full milling specification.  When prices are lower, the added benefits of the milling premiums comes in to greater focus. The disease profile of our varieties is very much based on cleaner ratings to minimise the risk of delayed spray timings.
Our winter barley area has increased slightly. Hyvido Volume is taking up the area that was previously planted to second wheats – it has brought good crop competition against the blackgrass. We will also grow more spring barley this coming season in the more difficult situations following a solid spring performance this year.
Our use of cover crops will increase significantly this autumn, having seen the benefits of better over winter water management, crop structure and nutrient capture for the following spring crop.  We still have areas where we have to be aggressive in our approach to reducing blackgrass and so ploughing and delayed drilling features for some of the areas.  But for other parts of the farm, reducing the cultivation depth based purely based on soil condition has become important.
Certainly following my Nuffield travels it became increasingly apparent that no-tillage was potentially the most robust and reliable system for coping with both very dry and very wet conditions.  Understanding the mind-set of some of the best no-tillers I met was very revealing and, although it might be easy to say, patience waiting for the right soil conditions, was one of the most critical factors between success and failure.
There were a whole series of different facets determining the success of using no-tillage, but everywhere I went, two factors were pivotal to it working – the retention and increase of organic matter; something that is almost impossible to achieve with intensive tillage.  If the hype is to be believed that there are only 100 harvests left in our soils, then the momentum for adopting no-tillage in this country is leading us in the right direction.
Here is the link to download Russell McKenzie’s Nuffield Scholarship Report, Success with No-Till – Under any Conditions.
CropTec 2016:
Want to find out more about No-till, Black-grass and your cropping choices for 2017, make sure to visit CropTec 2016.
In addition to the free advice on offer in CropTec’s topical and technical seminars, there will be numerous exhibitors you can talk to find ideas, inspiration and answers on everything from crop protection and nutrition to plant breeding and soil management in one place, at one time.
CropTec is FREE for farmers and Agronomists to attend. You MUST pre-register here to ensure you receive your free ticket.
General pre-registered admission: £12, all visitors will charged £15 on the gate on the day of the event.