Real results 50 profile - Trevor Needham

Name: Trevor Needham

Occupation: Farmer

Farm: R.E. Howard & Sons

Cropping: Winter wheat 298ha, spring wheat 101ha, winter barley 53ha, spring barley 113ha, OSR 122ha, Soya 21ha, sugar beet, carrots, rotational grass and permanent pasture

Farm machinery:

John Deere tractors – 100-200hp, Claas combine (10.6m) on tracks, Agribuggy 24m sprayer, Multi-drive 24m, Mzuri 3m drill, Accord 3m drill

About the farmer:

Trevor has always wanted to farm. “The inspiration came from my grandfather with whom I spent many school holidays learning his trade on the family farm in Lincolnshire. I started straight into farming when I left school and then went to agricultural college at Riseholme in Lincolnshire. Once qualified I move out into a variety of positions learning many aspects of the farming industry.”

He is a member of the Yorkshire On-Track Farming Forum and NIAB TAG. He is very keen on adopting new technology on the farm. “We do have auto steer on the tractors and yield mapping on the combine, and are looking into drone technology to see what benefits that could bring us.”

He added, “Attention to detail is very important to me; we are always looking for that extra 1%.”

The farm occasionally hosts local primary school visits. “This is important to me because it shows where some of their food comes from and hopefully this will inspire the next generation of farmers.

We recently went to a couple of career seminars with local schools, trying to promote the industry. We don’t feel that careers advice at the moment favours agriculture. I think agriculture is seen as a low technology, low skilled industry whereas in reality we are amongst the highest tech and skilled industries in the country.”

About the farm:

Soils: 95% sand, 5% heavy clay or high organic matter.

There is no set rotation; carrots are the main crop so forms the base of the rotation, which is tweaked to meet rental and stewardship requirements.

About 30% of the winter wheat area is ploughed and the rest is direct-drilled.

The farm also supports a spring-calving suckler herd.

The farm is a member of several environmental schemes: it is LEAF Marqued, and Farm assured crops. “We have to be because our end markets require it.”

Farming philosophy:

Without good soil health profits will be hard to achieve, Trevor believes. Being a sand-land farm with a history of heavy irrigation, and low organic matter levels the business is very conscious of having damaged soil structures and the performance of the farm.  

“We have taken the foot off the gas a bit to try and improve the long-term viability of the farm. We have put all our land into HLS and re introduced livestock. 

The aim is to hand on the farm in better condition than when we started. We were as guilty as many farms 30 years ago; of reaping as much out of it as we could get and we suffered for it and are now trying to turn it around with great success.

There are now positive improvements to be seen whilst maintaining profitability with the introduction of grass and livestock, it has given the soil more time to recover and we are putting nutrition back into them, which is good because in general our sands are low fertility, low in organic matter, although we do realise it will be a slow process, over many years.”

Hopes for Real Results participation:

Trevor says it’s easy for manufactures to post great claims from selected trial results. “Let’s see how they compare on the farm.  We carry out numerous on farm trials but it’s good to have the backing of a major manufacturer as on farm trials have more relevance to our location and farming practice.

We will study any results over several years before making snap decisions. We have and will continue to perform our own in house trials.”