RH Topham And Sons, Farm Office, Monks Hardwick, Saint Neots, Cambridgeshire, PE19 6ED.
Winter wheat, spring wheat, winter barley, spring barley, OSR, beans, spring oats and higher tier stewardship scheme.
About the farmer
Ian comes from a mixed farming family from Cornwall. He obtained a BSc in agriculture at Reading University and has been in his current position as farm manager for 12 years. Prior to that, he spent seven years in farm management in Cambs/Herts. He is a professional member of the Institute of Agricultural Management. Basis, Facts and Beta qualified. Agriculture has been in Ian’s blood since an early age and he always wanted to farm. Over the years he has worked with some good mentors and built up good contacts within YFC.
About the farm
A more flexible rotation has recently been adopted, leading to a move away from block cropping, where necessary, in order to target black grass populations. Most crops are sold and delivered locally within a 50 mile radius. The farm has been in ELS for the last 10 years and has this year been accepted in to a Higher Tier Stewardship Scheme. Crop establishment on the farm is a mix of direct and min-till systems, with the plough being used rotationally, where necessary, to assist with blackgrass control. The farm is also part of a facilitated funding group with neighbouring businesses, looking to provide a joined up environmental habitat.
Ian’s aim is to improve soil structure, reduce weed burden and to provide a good return on capital invested in the business. He looks to pay attention to detail in performance, by making small improvements in efficiency across all areas of the business. In the current business, a major long-term strategy is to employ balanced rotations and technology to be able to continue farming, despite the challenges of significant black grass pressure. He also looks to use plants’ natural resistance, by selecting varieties that have the ability to fight/tolerate disease. Ian believes that high yields coupled with high prices are the best way to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging marketplace and he looks to grow only crops that the market requires. Local opportunities are also targeted if significant premiums exist.
Cultivation and drilling approach
Cultivations and drilling are usually centred around a Vaderstad system. Due to the wet conditions in 2019, this year 70% of the crops were drilled with a tined drill, the most since 2012.
We have reduced the OSR area and are using spring oats and beans as alternative break crops. Our soil type really limits our choices.
Biggest agronomic challenges
The loss of active ingredients due to revocations is having a big impact, and whilst we are learning how to farm with black-grass it is still one of our biggest agronomic challenges.
What do they most value about Real Results?
I enjoy the opportunity to try new chemistry in my own farming system. The network of other growers and advisers who are part of the Real Results is a real value to me too.