Somerset gets its first AHDB Monitor Farm

Arable farmers are set to benefit from two new AHDB Monitor Farms, including the first one in Somerset, which will focus on local challenges.

Somerset farmer Richard Payne highlights that south-west farmers have different challenges from other parts of the country – smaller fields and more hedges.

“We get different diseases and are under different pressures,” he says.

See also: Dorset grower’s guide to building a cash-saving DIY grain dryer

The Monitor Farm programme aims to bring together like-minded farmers who want to develop or expand their business through local group discussion, benchmarking and trialling new practices and technologies.

Over the next three years, Mr Payne will host meetings on topics chosen by local farmers, featuring local experts from the AHDB and other organisations.

By the end, Mr Payne hopes to have a better understanding of his costs of production and to have benchmarked his farm for three years.

“I’d like to think we’re OK on variable costs, but it’s hard to say how we compare on our fixed costs,” he adds.

“I have a feeling because we like doing things ourselves and we’re not that big a business, our fixed costs may be quite high,” he says. 

Ouse valley

The other new Monitor Farm is in the Ouse Valley, hosted by Rick Davies, who crops 404ha between Northampton, Bedford and Milton Keynes.

“I want to dig deeper into our business, to focus more on my costs.”

During the three years of the Monitor Farm programme, Mr Davies hopes to increase his business resilience, reduce fixed and variable costs while maintaining crop quality, and improve soil health for a healthier crop.

He grows milling wheat, spring malting barley and high-oleic, low-linoleic acid oilseed rape – all premium crops that require careful treatment to make the most of the premiums available.

“If I’m looking at reducing fixed or variable costs, I need to make sure that we either don’t lose the premium, or that any premium lost is offset by the reduced input costs. However, I would usually prefer to grow crops for the premium.”

Get involved

  • Mr Payne is to hold his first meeting on 3 July at Heathfield, near Taunton, Somerset.
  • The launch event for Mr Davies is being held on 4 July at Newton Lodge Farm, Buckinghamshire.

For more information on either event, contact Harry Henderson, AHDB knowledge exchange manager, on harry.henderson@ahdb.org.uk