Philip Bradshaw joins HLS scheme

I am pleasantly surprised by our sugar beet crop this summer. Last year at this time it looked desperate and although it has been dry again, it has established well and is growing nicely, but weed control is still challenging.

My new Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme has just started, replacing our Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) scheme that was due to finish shortly. This has been a long time coming, with numerous setbacks and disappointments along the way. Happily, I received excellent support from my Natural England advisers, and much of the final application work was completed by RSPB adviser Niki Williamson, who is part of the Fenland Farm Recovery Project, which helps Fenland farmers with stewardship application work.

I have to say that some changes to the HLS scheme in recent years have made it a less attractive proposition and we had some indecision whether to follow the application through in recent times. However, there are still some positives in terms of crop management.

One example is the use of overwintered stubbles (EF6) on our lightest land to avoid wind erosion. I am also reducing the area of our poorest land for cropping with field corner options and extended overwintered stubbles (EF22) on some land with poor yield potential and blackgrass issues.

While cutbacks and changes have understandably put some people off the scheme, it is still worthwhile for us. I am pleased to be increasing the environmental value of our farm, while maintaining our area of better land for cropping.

We have the annual KWS open day here on Tuesday, 5 July, looking at beet and wheat demonstration plots, followed by an excellent barbecue from Moor Farm Meats, and refreshments.

• More from Philip Bradshaw and the other Farmer Focus farmers.






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