Real results 50 profile - Alex Borthwick

Name: Alex Borthwick

Occupation: Agronomist

Farm: Hoehill Farm

Cropping: winter wheat, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, potatoes (main crop) sugar beet and vining peas.

Farm machinery:

TRACTORS: John Deere 8345, Fendt 828, John Deere 6195, Massey Ferguson 7480, Massey Ferguson 8670.
COMBINE: New Holland 8.90 with 35ft header
SPRAYER; Bateman RB26
DRILL (wheat): Vaderstad 6m Rapid
Fertiliser application: Amazone ZAM 3600 granular.

About the farmer:

Mr Borthwick said, “I have not necessarily always wanted to be a farmer, I initially trained as an accounts technician and worked on the farm whilst studying. I then decided to stay on the farm and keep farming so I did a degree course at Lincoln University, Riseholme College, in Agriculture and the Environment.

I do all the agronomy on the farm and I have sat just about all the BASIS exams, I have the BASIS Diploma in Agronomy now. I also do all the book keeping on the farm and look after the accounts, so my initial training in accounts has helped with that.

My Dad is the farm manager here and is the inspiration behind my career in agriculture. I have worked on the farm, part-time at harvest time since I was 16 really so that’s 15 years now.”

About the farm:

Mr Borthwick said, “We have both heavy and light land on the farm and a variety of soil types. We are based on the Lincolnshire woald so we have some silty loam, silty clay loam and clay loam; however, the main area of the farm is calcareous loam.

In terms of rotation, it varies; we tend to have oilseed rape every four to five years. We do grow first and second wheats and we grow a lot of spring malting barley, on the light Lincolnshire wold land, which is on a two year rotation.”

Soil health is very important to Mr Borthwick and regular soil analysis is undertaken every 3-4 years. He said, “We now do more full spectrum nutrient analysis, to get that bigger picture. We only take the cereal straw off the land, the rest is incorporated. Although we don’t use other organic manures, purely because of lack of access, we put a lot of Pand K on in the form of Fibrophos in order to build the indices as best we can.” He added, “Because we are on chalk based soils we regularly check pH and we would always take remedial action where we feel it is needed.

There is a good range of wildlife on the farm and Mr Borthwick said, “We have a lot of Brown hares which are quite scarce.”

Blackgrass has been an issue, affecting approximately 70% of the farm. However, Mr Borthwick said, “We are getting on top of it now.  We have moved to more late drilling, stale seedbeds and using spring cropping where we can and utilising the break crops with regards to blackgrass.

However, I think the biggest thing we have done has been paying more attention to detail and taking on the agronomy myself. I know the land well and know which areas to target and have done more with the chemicals in the autumn as opposed to the spring.”

Sustainability is vital to Mr Borthwick, he is keen to make sure that the farm is profitable and productive but also that the land is looked after to the best of their ability. He said, “ I want to continue progressing, getting as much of the potential out of the land as we can and certainly the vision for the future is sustainability, especially now, with Brexit on the horizon. Generally we are quite happy with the system that we have so we are not looking for any radical changes.”

Farming philosophy:

Mr Borthwick said, “We see ourselves as custodians of the farm and we are looking to improve the condition of the land. The Real Results Circle trial is on an old air force base, where we have reclaimed some land and we are improving that. In terms of handing on the land in a better condition blackgrass is a big thing. We are just trying to free the farm of blackgrass, which sounds a lot easier than it actually is in reality but we are getting there. If we can keep doing as we are, for the next 10 years, I do think that we will possibly send it home.”

Hopes for Real Results participation:

Mr Borthwick said, “I hope we can improve our knowledge and understanding by engaging with the people from ADAS and BASF, and I hope to get a clear view on BASF fungicide performance.

I want to look at ways we can improve our current practices and see if we can push the yields on a little bit more without spending a fortune.”