Farmer Focus: Review sees change in break crop mix

I am a big fan of weather recording. Last year was wetter than 2019 and had only 40mm less rain than 2012, with a total of 1,205mm.

We managed to get all our winter barley and wheat in the ground and, at present, 95% looks average to good and 5% looks poor to average. As I write this, the forecast shows another 50mm this week.

We have just had part of the estate accepted into a mid-tier stewardship agreement and are waiting on the second agreement to be confirmed. This followed a complete re-evaluation of our farming enterprise.

We have been benchmarking for more than 14 years and this has been invaluable with helping to make decisions about future plans.  

See also: Step-by-step guide for a tailored approach to crop nutrition

We looked at the profitability of our break crops, and decided to drop OSR and have a full year fallow. Low-input cereals and fodder crops in the rotation will add £800/ha over the two years.

We also have wild bird strips and flower-rich margins on the low-productivity areas, and have just mixed up more than 16t of wild bird food to feed over the next four months, which will be great for the birds. 

This winter, we planted 11ha of broad-leaved woodland. Some of this will be used to offset the carbon emissions from the music festival we host, thus bringing in a further income stream.

We have also started our annual hedge-restoration projects. Each year, we try to do a chunk of coppicing, cutting back and gapping up poor hedgerows. Our average field size is 5ha, irregular with a hedge and ditch, so there is plenty to keep us occupied.

I have been busy attending webinars and zoom meetings and undertaking my Facts annual assessment, as well as gaining Basis points. I do enjoy these meetings, as you can cram a lot more into your day if you don’t have to drive 45 minutes each way. However, I do miss the networking and catching up face to face.

I find it exceptionally disappointing how toxic Twitter is at present, with the farming community constantly attacking one another. I don’t think there is another industry with the kind infighting as ours. Let’s promote the industry and give support to each other – it’s not hard to be kind.

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