York Real Results Roadshow Blog
Frequent evaluation of farm businesses to ensure they remain competitive and viable in the face of challenges such as climate change and regulatory pressures is crucial. Farmers at the Real Results Roadshow in York heard how two local farmers are addressing the issue.
Over the past 6 years BASF Real Results Circle member Pat Thornton of Low Melwood Farm North Lincolnshire has made changes to the 150 ha business in order to make it more resilient and better able to face challenges going forward. The focus has been on maximising their assets, adding value to them and retaining profitability. Pat said, “It’s a small farm so we have to be constantly thinking about how to remain viable and it’s quite a challenge.”
The greatest and most valuable asset on the farm is the 670,000 tonnes of topsoil. The soil is a clay loam, Brockhurst 2 soil association. “Cultivations on this type of soil have got to be timely, we only do what is necessary and when you are on there, tread lightly. It has a very short machinery window.
The last thing we wanted was to be on that land in unsuitable conditions, compromising the crop coming out the other side. We started looking at soil health and structure, trying to move it less, adding more organic matter and keeping a green cover on the surface. This is how we were trying to add value to the biggest asset we have.”
During the course of the last three generations at Low Melwood the farm’s performance has been benchmarked and rainfall figures collected. This large data set has allowed Pat to see what impact rainfall has on the bottom line.
Variable costs, as with most farms make up 30-40% of the cost of production, the remainder are fixed costs. Pat’s large data set shows that there is a direct response in variable costs to rainfall. Fixed costs, however, have a one-year lag.
“We are a very small farm with limited capital we can’t go out and buy a lot of big kit. We took a view, with our neighbours to utilise our resources more and start to work together, pooling labour and machinery to cover more ground when our soils are stable, to optimise establishment.
As a small business we can’t really deal with this volatility of costs. Going forward, what we are trying to do is plateau it out, and since we changed some of our practices around soil health, we can see that this is beginning to happen. We are becoming more resilient, getting more money in the bank to face whatever is coming forward. We have a lot of data and it is about using that data to see what the impact is on the bottom line.”
Rodger Hobson, another member of BASF’s Real Results Circle, is also making his business more resilient. Hobson Farming has 1600ha of arable cropping and is the UK’s largest grower of processing carrots, producing 30,000 tonnes per year over 364 ha. “We have a niche within the industry, supplying food factories. These companies are interested in the price of carrots but more the guarantee of supply. We harvest 8ha a week, year-round.”
Rodger has invested in state of the art machinery, such as the Grimme Varitron self-propelled harvester, to reduce the footprint on the ground, in an effort to weatherproof both harvesting and establishment operations, making the business more resilient.
“The big issue in growing carrots is the soil type, with very sandy soil required. As a result we are fairly nomadic in terms of the business, we travel around working with other farmers where we can find the right soils to do it. We want to look after other people’s soils as well as we’d look after our own and maintain the soil structure and soil health.”
The loss of actives is a huge concern for Rodger’s carrot growing operations where a lack of herbicides has led Rodger to invest in an inter-row sprayer. Rodger added, “A lack of seed treatments and insecticides has meant carrot viruses have become a major issue again.”
For the arable side of the business there is better news however, as BASF’s new cereal fungicide Revystar® XE, contains a brand-new active ingredient, Revysol®.
Both Rodger and Pat travelled abroad with BASF last year to see Revystar® XE in independent trials on winter wheat.
Rodger was in New Zealand with a BASF study tour. “Revystar® XE looks like it could be the best active there is on Septoria tritici. We will look to use Revystar® XE with high Septoria pressure at T2 and on dirtier varieties with high yield potential.”
Pat saw Revystar® XE trialled in Ireland. “We saw how Revystar® XE performed when applied only at T2, under huge Septoria pressure. Where disease is the limiting factor Revystar® XE works and it works really well.
From a personal point of view we have less than 10% of the wheat crop in the ground but going forward, hopefully after this year we move on and make a fresh start. In a new era of few if any protectants Revystar® XE certainly stands out from the crowd.”
Key take home points
- Recognise your assets and add value to them
- Soil is a key asset to your business
- Benchmarking – use the data to assess the impact on the bottom line
- Revystar® XE shows impressive control on the biggest yield robbing disease of wheat, Septoria, in independent trials
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