Real results 50 profile - Andrew Mahon

Name: Andrew Mahon

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: Bromborough Estate Company Limited, Glebe Farm

Cropping: Winter Wheat 250ha, 140ha Winter beans, 100 ha oats, 155ha spring barley, 50ha of Oilseed Rape, 20ha peas

Farm machinery:

Tractors: 2 x John Deere: 330hp CaseIH 150hp165hp
Combine: John Deere S790
Sprayer: Bateman Self propelled
Drill: Cross-slot

About the farmer:

Mr Mahon grew up in the city, in Dublin. “My grandparents and a couple of my uncles were farmers and it was all I ever wanted to do. I came over to Harper Adams when I was 17 to do a degree and then spent 3 years travelling between Australia, New Zealand and the UK. I then joined Velcourt as a trainee farm manager and I was a farm manager with them for a couple of years before taking a private job.

I have been in my current job for 10 years.”

Attention to detail is important to Mr Mahon.

Mr Mahon is happy to share ideas with other growers and was on the Steering committee of the Huntingdon Monitor farm and is a member of BASE UK, a farmer led group concerned about biodiversity in UK agriculture, promoting conservation agriculture.

Mr Mahon is very determined and quite happy to do his own thing, even if “the neighbours think I am mad!”

He said, “We have moved to no till from a very conventional mixture of ploughing and min till, through strip till until finally to where we are now, no till.

2012 was probably the catalyst it was a really bad harvest, our yield and quality were down and we made a mess of the fields harvesting.

I just thought what we were doing wasn’t sustainable so I started looking for alternative and more sustainable ways of farming longer term. I did a lot of research and came to the conclusion that no till was probably the place to go but we did strip till on the way there to make the change less painful.

This year will be our second full harvest under no till, we are definitely making cost savings and the crops are looking good, I have no reason to think that it won’t work. I won’t let us fail under no till.”

Mr Mahon said, “I am certainly open to trying new technology, we are never the first to try things but I am always keen to give it a go if it is applicable to our situation.”

About the farm:

Workforce 12 x permanent and 1 harvest casual.

Soils Heavy clay

Rotation Driven by blackgrass, tends to be two winter crops and two spring crops. However, there isn’t really a fixed rotation; it is down to the blackgrass pressure. Spring barley in the rotation for blackgrass control.

Tillage: We are no-till, across pretty much all our crops, we direct drill.

Fertiliser- Granular and some liquid

Any permanent pasture and livestock 30 ha pp rented out for sheep.

Woodland 80 ha. Wood used for on farm biomass boiler.

Renewables 65 ha rented out for 2 x solar parks; 32 MW, electricity goes into the local town.

Mr Mahon said, “We are trying to diversify a bit more to bring some different income streams into the farm, mainly renewable energy at the moment.”

Shooting Rent out shooting

There are three County Level Wildlife sites on the farm (one step down from an SSSI).

Benchmarking Mr Mahon said, “We do benchmarking, however, I think it is only as good as the data set you are comparing your farm too. It needs to be other local farms experiencing the same conditions that you are to make the figures comparable.”

Outreach Mr Mahon said, “We do Open Farm Sunday and have good links with three local village primary schools. I think it is very important to educate the public, I also do farm walks on a summer evening and explain what we are doing and why; these are always well received.”

Farming philosophy:

Mr Mahon said, “My brief is to make sure the farm is still in good order for the next generation.

We have just joined mid tier Countryside Stewardship which is important to me and the landowners. The owners take a long term approach to things, as I do. We don’t look at one harvest in isolation we tend to look at 3-5 year rolling averages.

Hopes for Real Results participation:

I was impressed with the level of detail that ADAS were able to pick up from the yield map data submitted.  There was no visual difference apparent and the weights over the weighbridge showed little difference but there was a significant difference.  I may well try and include another fungicide for comparison this year. We have upgraded our combine for this year and it has weigh cells in the grain tank so I’m expecting our data off the combine to be very accurate this year which in turn should give more meaningful results.

Mr Mahon said,I think it will be very interesting to see on farm comparisons of different fungicides to see for myself how they perform.

The Real Results trial on farm may change what we do here, it might change my approach to fungicides, time will tell. We have a yield monitor on the combine and a good weighbridge so if there is a difference hopefully we will pick it up”

I think that a combination of small plot trials and field scale trials are necessary because you don’t get the same level of disease in small plots compared to field scale and you get more variation on a field scale than in a small plot trial. I think they both have their place but I do like to have them on farm.

Mr Mahon has already been inspired to carry out more on farm trials and has set up his own trials looking at nutrient inputs this year.