A Group three milling wheat grower from Northumberland and two Group 1 growers from Oxfordshire and Essex have been shortlisted in the nabim/Crops Milling Wheat Challenge.
Pip Robson farms 400ha at Chathill Farm, Chathill, Northumberland, and almost all his 128ha wheat area is devoted to milling varieties. The challenging climate and short harvest window in his area means it is too risky to grow Group 1 and 2 varieties, so he concentrates on Group 3s.
This year he has 16ha Gallant, 11ha Invicta, 31ha Zebedee and 70ha Viscount in the ground. The climate means yield potential is high and last year Viscount returned an average yield of 11.1t/ha.
Mr Robson has been a member of Coastal Grains since its inception in 1982 and he drys, stores and markets all his grain through the co-operative. “They secure the markets for the grain and store it until delivery to the mill. The marketing strategies they employ on my behalf ensure the highest prices are achieved.”
Oxfordshire grower James Price from Perdiswell Farm near Woodstock usually grows Group 1 and 2 varieties, but this season he has planted a small area of Group 3 under contract for Weetabix. Soils on the 440ha holding are particularly susceptible to drought, so he is building organic matter content to improve water retention. “This started back in 2003 with biosolids and I have now moved on to coffee waste, green compost and farmyard manure. These are used carefully in the rotation to maximise their efficiency without compromising milling contracts.”
Mr Price works closely with his merchant Openfield to secure outlets and ensure quality specifications are met. “I’m also a member of the recently-formed Warburton Farmer’s Forum.”
Dan and Humphrey Squier farm 600ha from Doggetts, Rochford, Essex, and grow a range of Group 1 varieties. The bulk is a 150ha block of Solstice, but they also have a small area of Xi19 and Soissons. The pair is also growing 70ha high-protein wheat Pirenio as well as 45ha AC Barrie red wheat under specialist contracts. The Pirenio is supplied to a food manufacturing company and the AC Barrie should be supplied to a local mill.
Biosolids are used, where appropriate, to boost phosphate levels and soils are analysed by Soyl on a three-year rotation. This information is used to apply variable-rate P&K. “We also use a yield meter on the combine and satellite controls for most operations.”
Quality is paramount so the farm has invested in a high-capacity combine as well as under-floor dryers with stirrers.
The aim of the award is to recognise the role of growers in meeting the exacting specifications for milling wheat and help spread best practice to other growers.
Judging will take place on farm at the end of June and the profiles of the winners will appear in 23 July issue of Crops.
Pip Robson, Chathill, Northumberland
James Price, Woodstock, Oxfordshire
Dan and Humphrey Squier, Essex