Seed demand basis for switch

12 February 1999

Seed demand basis for switch

ANTICIPATED demand for organically grown seed is the foundation on which one Kent farm is basing its switch to organic techniques.

After the dispersal of a dairy herd and a change of ownership the 202ha (500-acre) Horton Park Farm, between Ashford and Folkestone, is being swung over to organic arable and beef production.

The arable crops will be aimed at seed production since the present derogation on using undressed conventional seed for organic crops runs out in 2001.

"We have been growing conventional seed on our IACS registered non-downland area for a number of years and it makes sense to meet an unfulfilled need," says Chris Reynolds, who contract manages the farm for the incoming owner.

The full organic conversion will build up to a 10-year block rotation. This will be based on initial advice from Elm Farm Research Centre advisers and subsequent consultation with independent organic consultant Mark Rowlands, who will also provide on-going advice.

Soil fertility will be built up by sowing vetch on set-aside and using three-year red and white clover grazing and conserving leys for a suckler herd.

Soils range from greensand to gault clay. That means wet autumns can be a challenge. But some of the heavy land produced 11.6t/ha of conventional Rialto last year. The soils are high in organic matter after years of dairy grazing.

When fully developed the arable rotation will probably include one block of spring wheat, undersown with a fertility building ley, three of winter wheat, interspersed with beans, triticale or rye and overwinter green manure. Ultimately it will cover 102ha (252 acres).

Weed control will rely on an Opico scratch weeder, spring crops and ley rotation. &#42

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