Real results 50 profile - James Faulkner

Name: James Faulkner

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: R Davidson & Sons

Cropping: Winter wheat (milling), marrowfat peas, forage rye and maize for a neighbouring AD plant, and oilseed rape

Farm machinery:

Main tractors are a Case Quadtrac and a tracked JD 9RX. Also 3 smaller JDs. Cultivation kit includes 7m Vaderstad TopDown, 10m Rexius Twin, 10-furrow Gregoire Besson plough, Farmet cultivator, 8m Vaderstad drill, 40m Amazone Pantera sprayer, 24m Bateman sprayer, Amazone fert spreader and JD S690 combine.

About the farmer:

James is a very switched-on farmer, with strong technical knowledge and keen interest in the latest technology. He is not from a farming background, having studied economics at university and originally wanted to be an accountant. However, he worked on his uncle’s farm after leaving university 15 years ago and has remained there ever since. He is now a partner in the business with his aunt and uncle.

He is BASIS and FACTS qualified and “a big fan” of precision farming technology. He also has a strong interest in trials, with a number of different studies conducted on the farm during most seasons. He enjoys furthering his knowledge and takes an active interest in the trials process and results.

For example, he took part in the HGCA LearN project (http://bit.ly/1LDUvlQ), where he trialled a range of nitrogen rates on Crusoe, from 180 kg/ha N through to 300 kg/ha N to find the most effective rate.

About the farm:

From the base at Brickhouse Farm, James manages operations across 1,500ha of cropping spread across a range of owned and contracted land in the Colchester area. Heavy Essex clay soil dominates, so inevitably black-grass management is an on-going challenge.

Within the farmed area is 120 ha of continuous milling wheat, now in its 2nd year and still performing very well at an average yield of 10-11.5 t/ha. The fertile site is ploughed to manage black-grass and receives applications of sewage sludge.

Ploughing is also used elsewhere in the rotation, notably between first and second wheats and ahead of peas or maize. Elsewhere, primary cultivations are based on the TopDown.

The focus is on producing milling quality wheat and seed crops, so attention to detail and a robust fungicide programme is vital. “We’re in a dry part of the country, which makes achieving the desired quality slightly easier than elsewhere”, he comments.

Farming philosophy:

There is a very strong focus on quality within the cropping at Brickhouse Farm and James Keen is keen to use the latest technology and agronomy practices to achieve this. All wheat is grown for milling or seed and he likes to try new varieties in situ before rolling out on a wider area – growing seed for multiplication is a good way of doing this.

He has been using Soylsense variable rate nitrogen since it started and also applies variable rate P and K. The whole farm has been soil conductivity scanned to allow variable rate drilling according to soil type – something James believes has shown a massive benefit and a “game-changer” for precision farming.

RTK guidance is also used across all operations on the farm.

Farming a large area spread over different farms, James likes to keep a close eye on costs, especially machinery costs per hectare, but is not going as far as measuring fuel use for every field or operation.

Hopes for Real Results participation:

James has always been interested in trials, with several different trials carried out on the farm – such as a long-term phosphate trial with NIABTAG. Joining Real Results was a natural step to further his knowledge and he is keen to have an active involvement in the trial to ensure it delivers the most accurate results and best value for the business.

“In terms of T2 product choices, we’ve gone from having a few obvious contenders in the past to a wide range of options that are very evenly matched, some of which are very new. I would like to see, in a controlled way, which of those works best in our situation.”

James hopes to be able to conduct the Real Results trial in the area of continuous wheat as this would allow results to be compared year-on-year.