Real results 50 profile - Richard Hinchliffe

Name: Richard Hinchliffe

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: Dikes Marsh Farm

Cropping: Winter wheat (all Group 4 feed) – Evolution, Grafton, Costello, Viscount, Motown, and autumn-sown Belepi, Spring wheat – Kilburn (although the wet weathers has probably killed this off in 2018!), Spring Barley - Planet, Winter oilseed rape (hybrids and conventional) – Campus, Elgar, Django, DK Imperial, Winter beans – Wizard & Tundra, Spring beans - Lynx, Linseed – Marquise.

Farm machinery:

Challenger 764A, Two John Deere tractors, 6830 and 7820, 6m John Deere 750A single disc coulter drill, New Holland CR9080 combine, Sands self-propelled sprayer 30m, Challenger-Agri trailed subsoiler, TWB Trailed Twin Mole-Plough, Horsch 6M FM cultivator.

About the farmer:

Richard grew up on the family farm and gained a National Diploma in Agriculture at Riseholme College, Lincolnshire (now part of Bishop Burton) in 2001, before going on to do a HNC.

He became BASIS and FACTS qualified 10 years ago, and now runs the farm jointly with his Dad and Uncle. Richard is married and has two sons, aged 6 and 3. He was also an arable finalist in the Farmers Weekly Awards in 2008.

Richard is a positive, motivated and hard-working farmer that is clearly passionate about what he does and happy to share it via social media – he had 1,546 followers at the time of writing.

Having grown up on the family farm he is understandably eager to secure its long-term viability for future generations of the whole family.

Richard has recently completed a Nuffield Scholarship investigating herbicide resistance and a sustainable future for arable farming. The family farm has clearly inspired his decision to do this, but he also hopes the experience will benefit the farm in the long-term.

About the farm:

The farm is all down to combinable cropping and has seen a number of changes to cultivation strategy and rotation over recent years.

A no-till system now operates across the farm, marking the culmination of a process that began around 15 years ago – some of the best performing fields on the farm have been in no-till since 2012 and Richard says they appear to have the healthiest soil.

There were two main drivers for the move to no-till; the main one was to protect and enhance soil quality, while increasing black-grass burden also hastened a change of strategy, that also included more spring cropping.

“Recreational cultivation” is avoided, but they are still open to the use of occasional subsoiling where remedial soil loosening is needed, also mole draining is done on a rotational basis of the Mg clay soils.

Richard believes they are slowly getting on top of the farm’s resistant black-grass population, having completely changed mind-set two years ago. Low black-grass populations used to be tolerated, whereas now there is “zero tolerance”.

They have stopped using contact herbicides and control now centres around delayed drilling, more spring cropping, pre- and early post-emergence herbicide stacks, and hand roguing. Areas of crop with particularly high infestations may also be sprayed-off before black-grass sets seed if required.

The issues experienced with herbicide-resistant black-grass on the farm were the main reason for his choice of Nuffield project.

The farm has hosted BASF trials for a number of years and Richard says part of the reason for doing this is because all agronomy is done in-house, so they are keen to see how products compare in their own situation.

Indeed, he insists “agronomy isn’t difficult” and encourages more farmers to become more involved with their own agronomy and farm trials.

Because the farm is very low-lying at just 2m above seas level, heavy dews can make yellow rust a big threat, alongside septoria. Selecting varieties with good disease resistance is Richard’s first step in managing this threat, which combined with a strong fungicide strategy, means disease levels rarely get too severe.

Farming philosophy:

Richard is a very forward-thinking farmer who is keen to embrace new ideas and technologies to address the challenges facing the sector, but is clear that any solutions must be proven to work on the family farm.

He is keen to build on the success of the recent switch to a no-till system (see below) and believes there is “huge potential” to improve yields on the good quality land they farm.

Ultimately he would like to narrow the gap between what is currently achieved on-farm and the performance of varieties in Recommended List trials. “With a bit of fine tuning and science, I think it’s entirely possible,” he says.

The current long-term wheat yield is 10.6-10.7t/ha, but he is aiming for 12t/ha for first wheats and over 10.5t/ha for second wheats. Oilseed rape yields have dropped since the loss of neonicotinoids, currently averaging 4.2-4.3t/ha, whereas 5t/ha used to be regularly achieved.

Beans do well on this farm, with winter varieties averaging 5.5t/ha and spring beans nearer 6.5-7t/ha. Richard firmly believes that if you put the effort in and invest in the crop, it will do well – winter beans typically receive three fungicides a season, spring varieties get two.

While Richard says he likes to keep things relatively simple in terms of crop management strategies, notably fungicides and fertiliser, he firmly believes in a flexible but preventative approach tailored to individual fields, using robust rates and accurate application timings.

This may even mean sub-managing crops within the same field if variations in soil type, weed or disease pressure dictate.