3 May 1996

First vegetable farm joins LEAF scheme

FIVE new farms will be launched as LEAF demonstration farms by the end of this year, bringing the total to 23.

A &#42 Worth and Cos 798ha (1972-acre) Fleet Estate, on Holbeach Marsh, Lincs, is the first vegetable farm in the scheme.

"Particular care is taken to reduce compaction on the highly fertile but fragile soils through appropriate cropping, machinery choice and assessment of soil conditions," says LEAF project co-ordinator Caroline Drummond.

The company has been keen to develop the NFU/retailer protocols – its inclusion will help to illustrate these in practice, she adds.

Another Lincs outfit, Marlborough Farm, part of the 1335ha (3300-acre) all arable Nevile family estate near Aubourn, has joined. That reflects Aubourn Farmings approach which hinges on the principles of integrated crop management, says managing director Philip Wynn. "It will help us maximise profits and ensure environmental resources and features are enhanced."

The first Scottish farms are included this year – Douglas Nivens 160ha (395-acre) farm at Whitsome Hill, Duns, Berwickshire and Geordie Burnett-Stuarts 370ha (914-acre) Crichie Estate, Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire.

Both are long-term LEAF and ICM supporters, says Miss Drummond. The Crichie Estate has been in the family for over 300 years. Mr Burnett-Stuart is keen to keep the property in good order for future generations, while farming profitably and maintaining high standards of livestock welfare.

Over the last decade, Mr Niven has switched to a fully integrated approach at Whitsome Hill. He is keen to conserve natural features like hedges, woodlands and ponds, and has adopted more environmentally sensitive farming techniques. This includes the pioneering use, in Scotland, of crop and field mapping technology to match inputs to crop potential.

Philip Chamberlain is also introducing precision farming tools at the 1416ha (3500-acre) Crowmarsh Battle Farm, Wallingford, Oxon. His policy, to produce optimum yields by making the best use of inputs through positive environmental management, is entirely consistent with LEAFs objectives, says Miss Drummond. &#42