Farmer Focus: Swapping nitrogen for beneficial bacteria

Not only did we finish spring drilling about a month earlier than last year but its rained since, so that’s another improvement.

We planted direct into mostly grazed-off cover crops with our Dale drill and experimented with a number of new set-up options that we now have available, although I would imagine Richard, the operator, would be pleased if I just settled on one or two variations!

We also tried brewing beneficial bacteria for the first time and applied them as a liquid at planting.

See also: How a milling wheat grower hit 12.2t/ha at 13.1% protein

They include nitrogen-fixing and phosphorus-solubilising strains. I can hear the calls of “snake oil” but there is something in enlisting biological help, the tricky bit is finding the best way.

I’m happy to try things if they cost under £10 a hectare and I can reduce another cost, such as nitrogen fertiliser in this case, by a similar amount.

Finding the limitations

For all those who are heartily sick of reading about direct drilling, we also planted some beans into ploughed pasture on a friend’s farm.

Although it’s not for me long term, you can see that with a really tight soil and several inches of dense dead thatch on top, this first crop may well be better with some cultivation for a while.

I’ll let you know if it does better than the direct drilling.

We’ve recently been away to Carmarthenshire and it was refreshing to hear the quietness and feel the stillness.

It felt strange to be in a countryside where every field was grass and the only buildings we could see from the house were farms.

Gazing at one farmstead in particular nestled on the side of a gentle hill overlooking the fields, beaches and marshes along the Taf estuary, it occurred to me that this might be the farm with the best view in the UK.

But I swiftly realised there must be thousands of contenders for this crown, we are lucky with our workplaces.


Andy Barr farms 700ha in a family partnership in Kent. See his biography.