Firstly, the recent policy changes are undoubtedly the biggest drivers of change and determining what UK farmers do with their land. Up until 2017, Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) requirements were easily met by planting peas and beans under the Nitrogen Fixing Crop option.
However, the subsequent withdrawal of the use of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) has meant growing such crops within the constraints of EFA rules is not practical or sustainable. As such, many growers have been looking at alternatives – Catch and Cover Crop options are a simple way of doing this. When carefully selected and implemented effectively, they are good for soils, water, crops and the wider environment. To date, we have seen a significant increase in interest and commitment to a greater area of green cover crops being planted post-harvest this year.
Secondly, we have seen a huge interest in soils, soil health and direct drilling. Only four years ago, seeing an article in the media about soils or cover crops was rare and often quickly overlooked. Now, we see soils way up the agenda – both in press and on farm. Soil health is a key pillar within progressive crop production on many units, with great focus being applied to rotation, crop type, introduction of livestock, manures and composts etc. to ensure it’s well maintained and improved.
Thirdly, we’ve seen far more collaboration between growers and industry. Through our network of 3D trial sites (Discovery, Development and Demonstration) we see just how much value there is in communicating and learning from one another. The importance of expertise is recognised by growers keen to develop a network of ‘trusted advisors’ to help support the various aspects of an efficient and productive farming business.
We have seen massive changes in farm production over the years. There is no doubt that many of the techniques and approaches adopted two generations ago are now being blended with modern technology and the latest learnings to improve farm profitability.
How do you support those who are keen to introduce or develop a soil health strategy on farm?
Key requirements from the cover crop or cultivation strategy, agri-environment or EFA requirement, grazing needs and soil borne pest challenges are all considered when assessing growers’ needs. We can bring basic, intermediate and advanced soil analysis together through our Soil-Life service and integrate this within the agronomy and precision farming requirements. We bring a targeted approach to cover crop selection that works alongside the current rotations, cultivation and crop establishment strategy to ensure the grower has a strategic yet achievable long term approach to soil health.
As well as our own research and development, we work closely with a wide range of industry stakeholders to ensure our advice and support takes on a progressive but integrated approach.
We’re also looking forward to challenging the machinery manufacturers as they work their way through our field-scale green cover crops. These have established really well having been direct drilled themselves. It’s a great way to bring the discussions full circle and encompass the practical implementation of the Groundswell approach to profitable and sustainable farming.
It will be a great event and we look forward to welcoming visitors to our displays on the Roadshott Field.