Farmer Focus: Learning from large-scale rewilding

They say make hay while the sun shines and July has been a good month to get harvest started, as well as make a few hay bales.

Winter feed barley crops exceeded expectations and yielded close to 10t/ha, which is well above our five-year average.

Oilseed rape crops were more variable, with some badly compromised by cabbage stem flea beetle larvae, but we finished with a final average of 3.75t/ha.

See also: 7-step guide to growing quality malting barley

Those fields with the better results had more organic manures incorporated into their seed-beds; a lesson we are carrying forward into next season’s plans by trying to use all our dairy waste wisely.

Rewilding

Just before harvest started, I spent a hot day at the Knepp Castle estate in Sussex, which is famous for its pioneering, large-scale rewilding project.

I have often been curious about what happens on a farm if you just “let it go” and the Knepp story is full of surprising recolonisations.

Wildlife photography is a growing passion of mine and my camera was kept busy.

Key messages are that grazing livestock are integral to ecological success and that nature is full of unexpected surprises for both experts and novices like me.

I look forward to returning to see how the landscape develops, but I wonder if the ecological status will soon peak and begin to decline as tree canopies gradually encroach.

In my view this is not a model for widespread rollout across the UK, but on a few sites such as this it is beneficial, both educationally and ecologically.

I recommended a visit for any farmer with an interest in farmland wildlife.

Static pricing

I recently stumbled across an old John Nix Farm Management Pocketbook from my student days, more than 20 years ago.

It is sobering to see that farmgate prices for arable commodities are broadly identical to that of today, yet we all know what has happened to our cost base since then.

Anyone think we will still be getting £125/t for wheat in 2039 and whether this could be sustainable with an unsupported backdrop?