5 June 1998


USE of a border/headland disc to bring real environmental benefits impressed the Nitram Award judges when they visited Scottish finalist David Fuller-Shapcott at Sweethope Farm, Kelso.

"If every farmer followed that example there would be an enormous benefit for wildlife. There is no single thing that can have a greater effect," said judge Richard Knight, national technical manager of FWAG.

Fellow judge Richard Martin, market development manager with Terra Nitrogen UK, was also impressed with how the 13-year-old Amazone twin disc spreader had been maintained and how it was calibrated before each operation, and tray-tested for spread pattern each year.

"Not only is there a benefit to wildlife and the environment from this approach but the farmer is also saving money," added Mr Knight.

In earlier discussions, Mr Fuller-Shapcott made clear that cash efficiency, as well as wildlife and environmental considerations, was a driving force. "I have no wish to promote the growth of couch grass in the margins. It is a big enough problem here along with cleavers. It makes economic sense to put the fertiliser on the crop and not in the hedges and margins."

Changing the disc on the fertiliser spreader is kept to a minimum by spreading the centre of one field followed by the headland, and then the headland of the next field before its centre. Tray tests identify the efficiency of all discs used including the border one.

Sweethope is a 243ha (600-acre) farm in the Scottish Borders with 184ha (454 acres) of arable in a six-year rotation of oilseeds, two wheats, and three barleys (two spring and one winter). It was the first farm to gain Scottish Quality Cereals assurance.

"We are very close to the river Tweed and I am conscious that we must not have fertiliser run-off from fields. We split spring nitrogen into three doses on our wheats and the general approach has been to build the level of fertility in the soil so that we can ease off on P and K if times get any tougher.

Keeping fertiliser in the crop and out of field margins is a priority for Scots finalists David Fuller-Shapcott (left), seen here with competition judges Richard Martin of Terra (centre) and FWAGs David Knight.


&#8226 Consistent use of headland disc to benefit environment.

&#8226 Careful spreader maintenance.

&#8226 Maintenance P and K dressings protect farm fertility for future hard times.

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