Biog: Matt mostly works as a contractor. He was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014. He owns a small amount of tenanted land on which he grows continuous cereals due to limiting size – winter and spring cereals in rotation along with introduction of cover crops ahead of spring crops in 2015 in mid- Bedfordshire. When possible he carries out all spraying and application record keeping for family farm, 210ha – wheat, OSR and Beans – also in mid-Bedfordshire. He has sent close to 24,000 tweets and has over 4,000 followers.
Title: Protect actives, broaden rotations and focus on soil health
Like everyone, I hope that my farmed area increases, and that we can extend our rotation to include more spring crops, or a more varied range of crops, so that we can move away from the standard wheat, wheat, rape sequence that has been so prevalent over the last decade.
I’m certain that wider rotation and range of crops will help to improve soil health, as well as spread the workload. I’m also really keen to explore more use of direct drilling/zero tillage to reduce establishment time and costs.
We currently use a wide mix of cultivations – the standard approach for the last seven years has been non-inversion tillage, with some use of the plough when we needed a boost to blackgrass control. The land ahead of winter beans is always ploughed and power harrowed early, to help us create a stale seedbed ahead of drilling. Oilseed rape is predominantly sub-casted, although I have used a John Deere 750a zero-tillage drill for half of the area this year.
This autumn I’m also trialling some zero-till direct drilled wheat to limit soil disturbance, as well as some single pass, non-inversion ahead of the zero-till drill.
Our variety choice for wheat is Skyfall as a second wheat – new this year in an attempt to move away from Group 3s and to grow a milling wheat in the second wheat slot to add some extra premium. We’re looking at KWS Lili as a replacement for Target which we’ve grown for the last few years.
Oilseed rape choice will be Elgar, because it’s second on the RL list, but 3 year average including 2015 will bring it to highest yielding conventional on RL list. We also grow winter beans – Tundra – grown on a seed contract, a change from growing Wizard for the last few years after advice from agronomist. Plus we will drill the spring wheat – Mulika – a new addition to rotation for 2016, to allow late autumn or spring planting depending on conditions. My plan is to direct drill it into a standing cover crop.
Looking ahead, I’ve got a few areas of real concern; the threats of losing the crop protection products we use mean that we as farmers need to constantly find better ways to utilise the products we have and reduce the risk of resistance to them building up. We also need to be mindful of increased regulation and the need for compliance – for example NVZs and water pollution – if we fail to address these issues, then we are even more likely to lose more products.
Added to this, the constant pressure to reduce cost of production means it is vital that we find ways to produce more from less, so industry R&D into improving yields is a very important focus over the coming years. Linked to R&D, farm trials are vital for developing practical ideas for use on farm.
In the contracting sector one of my biggest headaches is finding good seasonal staff – they seem to be impossible to find because they need to have certification like PA accreditation.
Matt is also speaking at this year’s CropTec event in the Careers forum, held on day 2 of the show read more.
Want to find out more about No-till, Black-grass and your cropping choices for 2016? make sure to visit CropTec2015.
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.
To encourage knowledge exchange among the British farming community further, this year’s event is FREE for farmers to attend. You MUST pre-register online to ensure you receive your free place.
General pre-registered admission: £12, all visitors will charged £15 on the gate on the day of the event.