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Different crop plots at Cereals will showcase a range of approaches to growers Plots highlight alternative revenue sources

Different crop plots at Cereals will showcase a range of approaches to growers

Experts from Catchment Sensitive Farming will be on hand to offer farmers advice and grant support at this year’s Cereals event.

Face-to-face advice is increasingly important when it comes to ensuring farmers are best placed to deliver environmental benefits, says CSF adviser Mark Taylor.

“It’s a great way of meeting farmers,” Mr Taylor explains. “Previously we worked with farmers in high priority areas. But now every farmer is in a catchment of one sort or another – right across the country.”

A CSF crop plot at the Cereals event will showcase different conservation mixes – including wild bird mixes and pollen and nectar. The aim is to highlight the benefits of signing up to Countryside Stewardship, says Mr Taylor.

“Farmers will be able to come along, see what the mixes look like and get advice on how to grow them. The Defra team will also be on hand to talk about the Sustainable Farming Incentive and other environmental schemes too.”

Other plots looking at soil structure and soil health. “We hope to have a living mulch crop with an understorey companion crop to the cash crop which can to help reduce inputs such as pesticides, fertilisers.”

Root systems

These plots will highlight how root systems developed by companion crops can help improve soil structure and soil health, explains Mr Taylor.

A maize plot will demonstrate the importance of crop establishment, including the practicalities and timing of under-sowing maize and how it can be managed and supported throuygh countryside strewardship.

“By doing that, farmers can reduce soil erosion and water pollution – and improve water quality. It gives the harvesting machinery something to travel on, and it’s going to provide that green cover over winter.

“Green cover rather than bare maize stumble can reduce soil erosion, improving soil health and water quality. “When it grows on and dries up a bit, it could also offer an additional income through grazing or a cut of silage,” says Mr Taylor.

Maize is an increasingly important crop, he adds – especially where farms have been operating a short rotation. “It is great for bringing another crop in but of course there are issues associated with maize and we are keen to promote best practise.”

Specialist advice on added-value crops

A number of added-value specialist crops will be showcased at Cereals – including spelt wheat, canary seed and linseed.

Alternative crops targeting specialist markets can generate a valuable additional source of farm income – so long as they meet specification, says Nigel Padbury, of seed suppliers Premium Crops.

Crops will include staple added-value crops like winter and spring linseed, including a high omega-3 variety, high erucic acid oilseed rape varieties and some spring sown options, high protein wheats, naked oats and canary seed.

A spelt wheat crop plot will highlight a special contract for growers. Also special will be two cover crop mixtures – one sown as a precursor to a spring linseed crop and the other as a precursor to a canary seed crop.

“We will be showing how you can produce a cover crop that will give you a good entry into what is really quite a small seeded spring crop. It will do all the things you want from a cover crop, while providing a good seedbed for a small seeded crop afterwards.”

Breeder focuses on rape and pulses

Seed breeder LSPB has increased its presence at Cereals as it returns to the event to highlight some new varieties at the event.

Crop plots will include varieties which have gone through national list trials, said the company’s Michael Shuldham. The main focus will be on oilseed rape although the LSPB will also showcase some pulses, including spring bean Lynx.

“It’s a variety really favoured by end-market users,” said Mr Shuldham. High-yielding green pea variety Carrington – which is on the 2023 PGRO Descriptive List for combining peas – will also be showcased, he added.

The crop plots look good, despite the wet spring and a cold snap during April. The oilseed rape has established well – a testament to the vigour of LSPB varieties, said Mr Shuldham.

“Everything has come up really nicely,” he added.

LSPB’s RMS gene was coming into its own, suggested Mr Shuldham. “Hopefully when we get to June time, we’ll really be able to see our stay-green stems – we’ve some top yielding varieties with good disease resistance.”