Kent Real Results Roadshow Blog
Adapting crop production systems to improve soil and plant health while cutting costs proved a common theme at a recent Real Results Roadshow held in Kent.
Two well-known local farmers, Richard Budd and Tom Sewell, outlined how they were managing their business to help make them more sustainable and profitable and able to cope with uncertain times ahead.
Richard, who manages 900ha of combinable crops across a range of owned, rented and contract-farmed land from his base at Stevens Farm, Hawkhurst, Kent has spent the past seven years moving towards a direct drill system for his crops.
After spending a decade as a wine broker in London, he came back to the family farm in 2008. He adopted a min-till system using a subsoiler, press, drill and roll but struggled in 2012 due to the wet weather.
He now bases his crop establishment on a Sumo DTS, subsoiling only where needed. A disc cultivator runs a few mm deep to provide enough seedbed to establish cover crops quickly or to incorporate digestate.
Organic matter is a critical component in the system. Often the rented ground he takes on has very low levels. The aim is to achieve 5% organic matter on the home farm through a combination of chopped straw and 3000-5000t of digestate applied rotationally per year.
All the farm has been soil mapped and P and K is now variably applied. Crops are tissue tested at key stages to optimise nutrition. Richard also enters wheat, oilseed rape and bean crops into ADAS’s Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), which provides detailed feedback on a range of parameters to help improve farm standards. “I’m not looking to maximise inputs, but to optimise efficiency and output.”
That is reflected in more recent management over the past few challenging months. “We managed to get all the rape established. We have kinder winters now so we drill towards the end of September by which time flea beetles have ended their migration.
“We also drilled 40% of the wheat area, but the rest will go into home-saved spring oats and winter and spring beans. I want to get into a good position for next autumn, rather than push on and end up in a mess.”
Tom, a second-generation farmer, runs 570ha for 14 landlords within 7 miles of the farm – just 5% of the area is owned by the Sewell family.
He began his talk with a picture of squeaky clean Wellington boots on his porch, taken straight after walking 100ha of crops this winter. This literally reflected the success of his no-till policy which sees him drill crops direct into green covers.
“The idea of regenerative farming is to improve the soil, not leave it as it is. I don’t want to pick up any mud when I walk crops. We aim to keep fields green all the time – you don’t see bare ground in nature, and we don’t want it on the farm.”
At the heart of the system is a home-built Cross-Slot drill, bought and built halfway through his Nuffield Scholarship on reduced tillage systems, where he visited farms that had been practising regenerative agriculture for 20 years.
“We went 100% no-till in one year, so we had to make it work. It was a steep learning curve but yields are as good or better than they were, despite using 10% less nitrogen, our soil structure has greatly improved, as has water quality and retention. And our costs have fallen dramatically.
Tom is making the system work for him and the family. “We work to live, not the other way round – we want to put as few hours as possible on the tractors while still doing the job properly, and we never work Sundays.”
In the end, he is improving soil, water and air quality, very much in line with the political zeitgeist, and leaving the land in better condition for the next generation. “And it’s great PR for farming – there is no catch.”
Real Results benefits
Richard and Tom are involved in the BASF Real Results trials, where 50 farmers pitch their on-farm standard wheat fungicide programmes against a BASF programme.
Both said the trials were invaluable in providing access to a group of like-minded farmers interested in trying out new technology, as well as providing advanced access to new materials and provided detailed information to help increase efficacy and efficiency.
Richard chose a field of Lili winter wheat following oilseed rape for the trial. His farm standard consisted of Ascra Xpro at T1 and Elatus Era at T2, compared with Revystar® XE on the BASF plots applied at T1 and T2.
“There was no obvious difference across the trial, until the end of June. From then on the difference became clearer – the Revystar® XE plots stayed greener for longer and were 10 days later to senesce than the farm standard plots, which helped increase grain fill.”
The farm standard yielded a “pretty respectable” 13.89t/ha. But the Revystar® XE plots produced 0.99t/ha more. This was a very significant result – ADAS analysis of trials using a two-spray programme of Revystar® XE compared with farm standards showed output rose by 0.39t/ha on average.
Richard’s experience confirmed his thoughts when he visited a very testing independent (Teagasc) trial in Ireland, where Revystar® XE and other fungicides were sprayed just once, at T2, on winter wheat under very heavy Septoria pressure.
“This showed, even under extreme conditions, that Revysol® is showing significant improvements over what has previously been available.”
Key take-home points
- Increasing organic matter through cover crops and/or imported materials greatly improves soil resilience.
- Optimising efficiency and efficacy rather than yield itself is key to profitable cropping.
- No-till/regenerative agriculture can be made to work across a variety of soils – be prepared to listen, learn and put lessons into practice.
- Across a range of large-scale and traditional trials, Revystar® XE’s performance has been a step-up on existing chemistry, offering best-in-class disease control, keeping crops greener and raising yields.
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