Farmers Weekly Awards 2023: Arable Adviser of the Year

Todd Jex of Agrii, Wiltshire, is Farmers Weekly 2023 Arable Adviser of the Year.

Todd Jex was taking his clients on a regenerative farming journey and embracing many of its principles long before the term became fashionable.

See more: Farmers Weekly Awards 2023: Arable Adviser of the Year finalists

His interest in no-till/regenerative farming systems was sparked by meetings with no-till pioneer Tony Reynolds in 2016.

Todd saw how Tony’s system had improved soil structure, lowered reliance on synthetic inputs and significantly reduced blackgrass levels, compared with neighbouring farms.

The knowledge gained has been instrumental in helping his clients transition to more sustainable farming systems.

Client base growth

When Todd began working at Masstock (rebranded to Agrii) he had no clients, but he now advises 25 arable farmers covering almost 10,000ha across Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Todd provides fully integrated agronomic advice, including bi-weekly field walking, advice on rotations, establishment systems, nutrient inputs, cultural management and machinery.

About 40% of Todd’s clients farm in a conventional manner and are generally min-till based. The remaining 60% are no-till farming in regenerative-type farming systems.

Great technical knowledge around soil health and monitoring forms the basis of Todd’s regenerative and no-till farming strategy.

Dorset grower and contractor George Fraser, who farms 1,400ha in Shaftesbury, has seen many benefits of switching 95% of his business to a regenerative system.

“We have seen an improvement in our gross margins, soil resilience and biodiversity while maintaining, and in most cases increasing, yields,” George says.

Flexible approach

However, Todd is flexible in his regen approach and says he and his clients “cannot afford to be evangelical at the expense of profitability”.

For instance, he will recommend using the plough if they need to press the reset button in a bad grassweed situation, such as brome and blackgrass.

He also gives consideration to crop residue levels and carbon-to-nitrogen ratios and how these will affect establishment.

Todd understands the cost pressures his clients face with reduced Basic payments and rising production costs.

He is trying to make savings on their agrochemical bill, while still providing consistent crop yields and quality.

Todd is also reducing his clients’ use of synthetic fertilisers and replacing these with organic manures in growing crops.

And his customers make full use of Agrii’s long-standing MAP benchmarking group.

He says most clients no longer use insecticides or only apply them to early drilled winter cereals. Many will bank this opportunity under Defra’s Sustainable Farming Incentive.

Additional services

Todd complements his crop walking service and reports with quarterly educational open days involving 200-plus farmers, various on-farm field-scale and tramline trials, and farm walks.

These have covered soil health, cover crops, no-till farming and technical advancements.

In 2013, he launched a local farmer discussion group, 15 Tonne Club, with farmer members setting the agenda for meetings.

Todd has integrated variable rate fertiliser and seed application through satellite imagery.

In more recent years, he started using a drone with Skippy Scout software alongside the handheld Yara N-tester to improve nitrogen-use efficiency.

Winning ways

  • Outstanding technical knowledge
  • Dedication to more sustainable farming systems
  • Scientific and analytical approach to agronomy
  • Created own soil health testing, scoring and recording system now rolled out to more than half of clients
  • Alternative nitrogen sources (digestate) used on farm
  • Acutely aware of clients’ costs of production and gross margins

Fact file

  • 12 years working as an agronomist since graduating from Harper Adams University with a degree in agriculture and crop management
  • 25 farm business clients
  • 10,000ha looked after across Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Isle of Wight
  • 60% of clients run no-till systems
  • Four years of bespoke soil health testing and reporting

A word from our independent judge

“Todd demonstrated outstanding technical knowledge based around soil husbandry which forms the basis of his regenerative and no-till farming strategy. His scientific and data-driven approach, including extensive soil analysis and benchmarking to aid crop performance, is empowering farmers to make the right agronomic decisions.”

Edward Vipond, farm manager, Troston Farms, Suffolk

The Farmers Weekly 2023 Arable Adviser of the Year Award is sponsored by FMC

The Farmers Weekly Awards celebrate the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.

Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.

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