7 September 2001

Intensive unit awarded entry into LEAFproject

By Wendy Owen North-east correspondent

THE latest farm to be launched as a LEAF demonstration unit is the JSR Farming Groups 680ha (1680 acres) Southburn unit on chalky gravel to clay loam soils near Driffield, East Yorks.

Dispelling the myth that intensive farming and good environmental practices cannot go hand in hand was a key reason for the move, says technical director Philip Huxtable.

Visitors to the unit, which officially joined the Linking Environment and Farming project yesterday (Thursday), will see a range of ICM practices that have helped cut chemical inputs and improve profitability.

Cropping includes wheat, barley, vining peas, sugar beet, ware potatoes, onions and short rotation willow coppice.

With more than 700 sows and followers at Southburn, most housed on straw, the farm has more than its fair share of FYM and slurry. Better use of that animal waste has brought big fertiliser savings.

"The JSR Farming Group manages 16,000 acres of land and a large number of livestock," says Mr Huxtable. "I estimate that since we have started making better use of muck and slurry, the business saves in the region of 1000t of nitrogen fertiliser a year, equivalent to a saving of about £100,000/year, not to mention the savings in P and K."

A Quantofix instrument is used with ADAS Manner software to measure samples of separated slurry and determine available nitrogen. The farm tries to apply most separated slurry to growing crops in the spring as a liquid fertiliser to minimise nutrient losses into the environment.

A 10% reduction in irrigation has also been achieved over the past three seasons, by using tensiometers to assess soil moisture deficits in root crops.

Mr Huxtable is a keen supporter of 0.75m isolation strips, which run along field margins in all JSRs winter-drilled arable fields. These are either rotavated or treated with propyzamide in the autumn/winter, receiving a follow-up application of glyph-osate if necessary in the spring.

"We have been using these isolation strips since the mid-1970s. They reduce the risk of sprays and fertilisers reaching the non-cropped field margins, help prevent pernicious weeds encroaching into the crop and give a clear demarcation line for the combine driver to follow. They also offer pheasants and partridges a dusting and drying area away from wet vegetation"

Training is also important, Mr Huxtable adds. "We carry out a lot of in-house agronomy training to ensure staff understand the rationale behind our methods. They have an intimate knowledge of the fields. If, for example, a patch of cleavers is spotted, we can patch-spray the affected area. The earlier you can treat a pest, weed or disease, the less chemical you need to use." &#42

JSRICMACTIONS

&#8226 Better use of FYM and slurry. Saves £100,000/year in nitrogen over 16,000 acres.

&#8226 Isolation strips. Keep grass margin weeds out of crops.

&#8226 Training. BASIS trained staff ensures only justified treatments used.

&#8226 Peamoth traps. Threshold not reached so no spraying in recent years.

&#8226 Blight forecasting software. Helps stretch spray intervals from 10 to 14 days during low blight pressure.