Having been chosen twice to host the top technical event in any arable man’s calendar you would expect Andrew Ward to be more than a cut above the average. He doesn’t disappoint.
Andrew does nearly all the spraying and half the drilling and combining on the 650ha (1606 acres) all arable business of Roy Ward farms business. He conducts field trials, and, as well as hosting the Cereals event twice sits on an HGCA committee and manages all the farm’s office work, too.
His enthusiasm for arable farming and desire to remain profitable through tight control costs underpin the business. His focus on cultivation costs is a good example: “I used to average fuel use on any tractor in relation to the implement it pulled,” he says. “But I didn’t think that was accurate enough.”
This year he costed each tractor and machine combination separately in his fully min-till based system. “It’s amazing how much the same tractor/implement combination can differ on various soil types.”
His range of soils merits three distinct rotations with first wheats averaging 11.5t/ha. “We’ve done 80t/ha of beet on the heath which won’t sustain second wheats.”
Sewage sludge helps raise soil nutrient indices and reduces fertiliser costs. No bagged P or K fertiliser has been used on the heavy land for seven years. Once unconvinced of the value of soil N tests but recently FACTS-qualified he revived them with “surprising results” leading to several trials.
With blackgrass control a constant battle much of his spring beans area has being switched to HO,LL rape allowing more time for vital stale seed-beds.
He admits his 9m (30ft) cut New Holland CR980 combine is over-capacity, but it brings contracting opportunities. GPS controls will inevitably be integrated, but not on his four-year old sprayer until it needs replacing.
His marketing policy is to spread risks, selling to five merchants increasingly on a “forward” basis, and using options depending on information from several sources.
Most of his ELS points come from 6m field margins – mainly of grass, but with wildflower mixtures where the public has access.