Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Drilling home the message

Ensuring farming is supported by government policy has never been so important and at the top of our industry’s priorities. With Brexit and the upcoming general election presenting more uncertainty within agriculture, it is paramount that the future interests of food production and farming are heard.
The government often discuss their long-term goal to make Britain a world-leading agricultural and rural nation, especially when it comes to self-sufficiency. The Secretary of State has set out five priorities for action for achieving these aims;

  • To improve productivity and competitiveness of the whole food supply chain. 
  • To increase global demand for British food and drink. 
  • To strengthen resilience of our agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors. 
  • To increase sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting, enhancing and investing in our natural environment. 
  • To build consumer trust to ensure confidence in the food they buy.

At the end of March, The Allerton Project had a visit from Andrea Leadsom. The purpose of the day was to gain an understanding of the Allerton approach to integrated farm management, complete with a farm tour from Farmer Phil. The visit also gave GWCT and The Allerton Project the opportunity to express our initial views on post-Brexit farming and environment policy.

The project has also been busy with many events and training days. We have recently hosted a national soils days in partnership with the NFU and LEAF covered in our last post, followed by a  soils day for Syngenta, this focused around infield practices and soil armour alongside fertiliser and pesticide application. There were many take home messages from the day, centering around sustainable intensification and conservation agriculture. Key principles of this include minimum soil disturbance through reduced tillage systems, continuous ground cover and diverse crop rotations. It was great to see the candidates learnt so much- shown here:
The farm has been equally as busy with spring drilling and the Longwools going out to grass. However, the dry weather has presented some challenges. Our oats and barley are beginning to come through after being drilled straight into stubble or cover crop residues. This has helped with moisture conservation during the current dry weather, but can also compromise seedbed preparation. Direct drilling has led to some varied crop emergence on heavier land where wet conditions at drilling time led to some smearing with the drill. Our winter crops have come under stress from lack of moisture and cool weather, which is making our decisions for fungicide and fertiliser use more challenging. If the fertiliser isn’t used when conditions are favourable, it can volatilise rather than being washed into the ground. Drought stress and late frosts after fungicide and growth regulator ‘tank mix’ applications can lead to scorched crops. In other words, there is one farmer in Leicestershire who is doing a rain dance (but not too much)! 

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