Graham Thompson’s New Zealand Adventure
Graham was brought up on a mixed livestock farm in Lancashire and did a degree in crop science at Liverpool. Since then he has worked all over the country, in a range of agriculturally related jobs but 10 years ago settled in Suffolk. The arable and pig farm manages approx 450 hectares of arable land on heavy soils growing mainly wheat, barley, grass and OSR, all for the seed market, as well as vining peas and sugar beet. They are independent pig producers, doing everything from farrow to finish, and milling their own feed from cereals produced on farm.
Three words to describe the trip?
Informative, Fun, Scenic
If you were to make a New Year’s resolution, inspired by your trip to New Zealand, what would it be?
Push the crops a bit harder.
What was your impression of NZ farms?
“We had a brilliant time discovering that the New Zealanders have their Agrifood business down to a ‘t’. A huge amount of their fruit and veg produce is exported and the businesses we saw were set up perfectly for that. In a country with a population of approximately four million people the agriculture industry is producing so much that there really is no option other than to export.
Of all the businesses that we visited it was probably Turley Farm that I could most relate to. Here, amongst many other things, they are producing lots of different seed for the global market. The seed production Murray and Margaret Turley were doing was to another level and all with very difficult crops.
Turley Farm is a large scale arable and vegetable operation in South and Mid Canterbury, spanning 4,000ha. It is one of New Zealand’s biggest cropping businesses and also integrates sheep and beef cattle into its rotations.
Pollination and irrigation are the biggest costs for their seed crops, with bee hives hired in for the pollination. They were growing seeds, including carrot, clover and grass. None of them are particularly easy to grow on their own but in a farm growing the whole lot together, it was impressive, you have got to know what you are doing. Each crop has its own nuances and you are dealing with very small seed.
What was your impression of NZ as an agri-food exporting nation?
The climate and the soil are second to none in New Zealand and in the drier parts they are all set up for irrigation. Currently, more and more legislation is coming into New Zealand with regard to water and the environment. The legislation is going to catch up with that in the UK, I would say in the next 5-10 years and it has started with water.
We saw a wide range of practices for cereal growing; some of the practices were very simple and on other farms they had gone to GPS and variable rates for everything, both methods getting good yields. Personally however, I don’t think the yields we are getting on this farm for OSR, Barley and Grass seed are a million miles away from those we saw in New Zealand whilst for Wheat there is room for improvement, climate and soil permitting.
What can we learn from NZ farmers?
Their climate is ideal, and their soils are very nutritious and I came back thinking that nutrition plays an important part in yields. We need to improve our soils in the UK and understand how to make these nutrients available to the plant without destroying the soil.
What did you think of BASF’s new cereal fungicide in trial for Revysol®?
We saw Revysol®, BASF’s new cereal fungicide in barley and against Ramularia it looked very, very good. It really did control the Ramularia. I fully intend to try some Revysol® out when it comes on the market. We are not rife with Ramularia here but it is a game-changer in New Zealand and it probably will be up in Scotland too.”