Michael Hambly

Occupation

Farmer.

Address

Westcott Farm, Callington, Cornwall.

Cropping

Winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley, OSR, other crops.

About the farmer

Mike grew up on the family farm and after gaining a degree in Agriculture at Harper Adams in 1985, he worked in a number of roles within the arable sector before returning to the farm, which he now runs with his wife.

He has a wealth of technical industry knowledge, built up from some 21 years working in the supply trade, agronomy, and the grain division of Cornwall Farmers (now part of Countrywide Farmers).

He is a big supporter of NIABTAG and is the technical committee chairman for Cornwall, alongside a number of high-profile positions within the arable sector.

Mike is past chairman of the NFU’s combinable crops board and South West Regional Crops Board and is was on the union’s board until March 2020. He is also Vice Chairman of the European Copa-Cogeca Oilseeds and Proteins Working Group and Vice Chairman of the European Oilseed Alliance.

Other roles included:
· AHDB/HGCA Board member for six years
· Past British Cereal Exports Chairman
· Founder member and past Chairman Kernow Grain (Storage Co-operative)
· Vice Chairman West Country Grain Marketing (Co-operative Grain Marketing Group)
· Helped develop and initiate Cornish Identity Preserved cereals; Cornish Milling Wheat for Ginsters and Cornish Malting Barley for St Austell Brewery
- Chairman of NFU Mutual’s South West Advisory Board.

About the farm

The 200ha farm has been in the family for 200 years and the Hamblys can trace their roots in the area (within five miles) back to the 1600’s. The farm is mostly down to autumn-sown combinable crops, which are block-cropped and used to support the intensive beef finishing enterprise.

The focus is firmly on feed varieties, following results from last season JB Diego has been dropped after many years as the mainstay variety and has been replaced by Graham across the whole wheat acreage. Crops are grown in a four-year rotation (Winter Oilseed Rape-Winter Wheat- Winter -Oats- Winter barley) and all straw (including OSR) is baled to be used for livestock bedding.

The farm has recently switched from an entirely plough-based establishment system to a 25:75 plough and Sumo Trio. The Trio is used to establish OSR after barley and wheat after OSR, while the plough is used on wheat ground going into oats (to reduce volunteers) and for barley after oats (to reduce brome pressure).

With an average rainfall of around 1,500mm (60”), too much rain is the main constraint to yields on the farm, he says.

Farming philosophy

When it comes to the farm, Mike’s philosophy is to make the best use of the relatively limited area by maximising output and margins.
Attention to detail across all aspects of the business is key to how he achieves this, whether that is in terms of using the latest crop agronomy, precision GPS applications, or close monitoring of financial performance.

Indeed, Mike is keen to share ideas with other farmers and use the resources available to help improve the profitability of his own business. He is a keen supporter of the AHDB Monitor Farm programme and is a member of a local cereals discussion group, through which he has benchmarks costings. He also subscribes to the Farm Business Survey costings.

Precision farming is an increasingly important tool for Mike. The farm has been mapped by SOYL, with variable rate P and K used. The sprayer is also fitted with 11-section auto GPS control. Variable nitrogen is not yet used as Mike is not convinced there is a worthwhile benefit on the relatively small fields (average size is just under 4ha). He is however considering variable seeding but is keen to see proven results elsewhere before using it on the farm.

Cultivation and drilling approach

A reducing proportion (25%) of land is ploughed with the rest prepared by a Sumo Trio. A Vaderstad Rapid drill is used. It has limitations in wet weather due to over compaction and this proved to be a problem in autumn 2019.

Rotation

WOSR, WW,WO,WB. Some permanent grass and a small area of 5 year leys for silage.

Biggest agronomic challenges

Control of fungal disease on a high rainfall area. Does not have black-grass problem but does have to deal with soft and sterile brome. Uses integrated solutions to deal with this.

What do they most value about Real Results?

Very enthusiastic. Likes 1) The opportunity to try new products ahead of other people. 2) Interaction with BASF staff and other farmers. A “gold mine of information.”

Particularly appreciated the trip to see the Irish trials. Very relevant to his wetter climate.