Biog: Philip Partridge farms 330ha of arable and 40ha of permanent pasture in partnership with his mother Sylvia and sister, Joy, near Ipswich, Suffolk. His late father, Mark, moved to the farm in 1953. The current rotation is wheat, barley, beans and oilseed rape. He has a small flock of sheep and 200 head of fattening cattle which are bought in as stores and fed on a mixed ration of home-grown cereals and pulses. The soil types are Hanslope, Beccles, Burlingham, Newport and Melford – Philip is very keen to learn more about his soils and to improve soil fertility. He is married to Anita and has two children, Karl and Fabian.
Title: R&D and stance on EU membership are vital to prevent us blundering into a dark future
The biggest issues facing us as farmers concern competing in the volatile world market, availability of crop protection products and building sustainability into our businesses. Producing grain and other products at a price to compete globally is tough, and in order to do so we need access to technology, we need to improve profitability and we need to build organic matter into our soils. For those of us with blackgrass, we need to manage grassweeds much better than we are.
We are also facing a lot of uncertainty over our membership of the EU and CAP; what is our domestic agricultural policy if we leave the EU? We must know to plan for the future. And, on a macro scale, we are potentially farming in a world with more extreme weather events in store.
An added need – and responsibility – is to keep the general public on side so that we can talk – and ensure higher food prices. It is a must for our industry going forward. Linked to this, it’s our responsibility to demonstrate that we can produce food with care – farming and wildlife can, and do, go hand-in-hand.
Looking ahead, my ambition is to farm more acres, but not at unsustainable rents. If I could rent or buy land locally within my reach, I would.
Precision tools are a part of the future for me – we have fairly standard systems like guidance on the two tractors, yield mapping on the combine and have also made the very recent move to auto section control on the sprayer. In terms of renewables, we have solar PV panels on the shed rooves.
Soils are a key area of focus for me going forward – we have soil audits carried out by Soil Fertility Services. The results show what nutrients are available or locked up in a great amount of detail compared to the standard availability tests on the market. This information has been invaluable in helping me plan fertiliser, manure and organic matter applications.
Industry R&D is absolutely vital as farmers gear for the future and keep pace with other parts of the world – we are already way behind in my humble opinion. With an even smaller number of crop protection products available to us, and with the wheat yield plateauing – we are blundering into a dark future. Also, it would be great to research better understanding of crops with more vigour and scavenging ability – maybe we need to do more to exploring wild relatives in our heritage seedbanks.
As farmers we need to have very close ties to people doing the R&D, it’s a two-way dialogue that must take place for each party to understand the problems encountered by the developer and the user. The bright light will be when R&D results are implemented – Agri-Tech strategy is a really good example of this.
I’d like to see more work on targeted spray applications – to minimise the impact on non-target areas. Also, I’d love to see the development of anything that makes it easier to remotely monitor disease pressure in crops. The list of what I want is endless, and I haven’t mentioned blackgrass yet!
I really believe that the future us bright for British farmers, but this will not be without some radical ‘out of the box’ thinking – and there will be casualties along the way; but food and energy will always be needed.