Exeter Real Results Roadshow Blog
Two south-west farmers speak openly about arable farming at Exeter event.
Cornish farmer, Mike Hambly, and Devon farmer, Rob Cotton, outlined their farming approach and 2020 plans following what has been an awful winter of rain.
At the event hosted in the Exeter Chiefs’ Rugby Club on 4 February, Mr Hambly, who farms cereals and beef at Westcott Farm Partners, described his current situation.
He said: “I usually aim to start my drilling after the 20 September; this year the rain started on the 21 September, and it has barely stopped since. The consequence is that I haven’t managed to sow any of my winter wheat.”
Mr Hambly establishes his winter crops using one of two systems.
“Option one is a plough and press system followed by a Vaderstad drill, option two is a Sumo Trio followed by the Vaderstad drill. This year the Vaderstad has been our Achilles’ heel, whilst other farmers in the area using a plough directly infront of a power harrow combination drill have managed to plant a crop.”
Heavily involved in on-farms trials with both NIABTAG and as part of BASF’s Real Results Circle, he added that there is real value in learning from trials on your own farm.
“NIABTAG brings a wealth of information, and my involvement with BASF’s Real Results Circle and YEN has been invaluable as well, because the trials give you a dossier of information on what’s happening to crops in your own situation.
“Given that the days of achieving big differences from growing new varieties or using new products are gone, such trials are really useful to identify where the incremental gains will come from in the future.”
In his wet region, where records of up to two metres of rain annually have been recorded, he says that Septoria is the dominant disease target, and from varieties he looks for yield as well as strong resistance to Septoria and against sprouting. In terms of chemistry, he says that his other key focus is to find alternatives when the industry has lost chlorothalonil, which he says will be a huge blow.
“Maybe this roadshow is an integral part in helping us decide where we go now, without chlorothalonil. We haven’t had a product like Revystar® XE for 15 years, and we have to be grateful that companies like BASF invest in R&D to develop products like these. It’s a bit corny to say it, but it is a revolution if Revystar® XE gives me the security and results that I need.”
Rob Cotton farms 2,500 acres with his brother near Dawlish Warren in Devon, like Mike Hambly, producing cereals and beef and with 50% of the land managed under Higher Level Schemes (HLS).
The Cottons have been farming here for 25 years, previously hailing from Herefordshire. A primary focus for them has been to invest in soil health, applying 5,000t of green waste annually, alongside trialling AD digestate and sewage sludge.
These products are not without their challenges, he said, but the programme has increased soil organic matter from 2% to 5%. “We have light soils, so this limits spring cropping, but this improvement in soil health brings increased associated benefits and soil resilience.”
The Cottons’ beef enterprise brings in dairy bull calves at twelve weeks of age and Aberdeen Angus calves which are sold to M&S. They also have a herd of Belgian Blues that are contract reared for Mitchell and Butler for a dedicated supply of beef into their Toby Carveries.
The farm also stocks 1,000 sheep under a joint venture with Innovis to produce composite rams. The farm hosts an annual ram sale of the progeny.
Rob Cotton describes the environmental elements of the farm as a separate enterprise. “Up to 95% of the land has had an environmental measure on it,” he said. “And we believe that environmental stewardship schemes will remain important going forward.”
This event was part of eight national events in which BASF has joined forces with the farming community to run a series of agronomy-focused roadshows, including the launch of BASF’s new cereal fungicide, Revystar® XE.
Read more articles about Revystar® XE in January’s edition of CPM here.
Revystar® XE and Revysol® are registered Trade Marks of BASF. Revystar® XE contains Revysol® and Xemium®. Revysol® contains mefentrifluconazole. Xemium® contains fluxapyroxad. Always read the label and product information before use. For further product information including warning phrases and symbols, you can refer to https://www.agricentre.basf.co.uk/en