Real results 50 profile - Pat Thornton

Name: Pat Thornton

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: Low Melwood

Cropping: Winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, and spring wheat.

Farm machinery:

All harvesting work and crop establishment is done by contractors. Pat owns New Holland tractors, 24 metre trailed sprayer and other equipment. Pat also uses on-floor dryer and stores all of his crops on the farm.

About the farmer: Brought up on the family farm, Pat has combined a career in agronomy with his own farming activities. He has worked with ADAS, NIAB/TAG and AHDB where he had responsibility for running monitor farms. He also works as a consultant.

About the farm:

Pat describes his land as “pretty heavy” as witnessed by the fact that there are two old brick quarries within the farm boundaries. The land is flat and lies only four metres above sea level. “The River Trent comes through our village but frustratingly, the “promised land” suitable for vegetables and potatoes is one field way from us,” says Pat.

The position regarding blackgrass is “challenging” on this heavy land but rotational ploughing every four of five years is proving  beneficial. Otherwise, a low disturbance system is favoured using a Vaderstad Rapid fitted with the System Disc toolbar. “It is a learning process but I am using cover crops to keep the soils ‘alive’ by constantly have something growing on them. The choice of cover must be symbiotic with the cropping rotation and our establishment methods”

The most successful cover crop so far has been spring beans ploughed in after a cereal crop and then pressed. These are then sprayed off in the spring prior to sowing with spring wheat or spring barley.

Controversially Pat believes the “three crop rule” imposed as part of the current CAP is helpful to the farm. It may have pushed him into growing spring cereals but it has proved beneficial in combating blackgrass it also gives opportunities to improve soil health via soil amendments and the opportunity to mole drain more regularly.

He regards establishing oilseed rape as the biggest rotational challenge in his system. Being in a relatively northern area the time window for establishing the crop after a spring cereal can be very short, but a move to direct drilling looks to be the solution.

What he hopes to get out of Real Results: Pat says: “Hopefully it will mean I am not missing out on learning something new – see is believing. I like to try fresh thinking but with change comes risk, working alongside BASF reduces the risk and creates a safe learning environment not just for me  but for all those involved.

Farming philosophy:

Pat firmly believes

“Knowing is not enough- you have to do something with the knowledge!”

He is an advocate of very regular crop walking, that includes using the right products at the right time.

Hopes for Real Results participation:

Pat says:

“Hopefully it will mean I am not missing out on learning something new – seeing is believing. It is all a matter of finding the best ways to invest in a crop.”