Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Growers invited to take part in Strategic Farm initiative

December 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Forward-thinking commercial arable farmers are invited to apply to host Strategic Arable Farms on behalf of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Strategic Farms focus on improving productivity by testing and demonstrating innovative practices in a commercial setting to other growers. This benefits the host farm while provide a highly effective vehicle for driving the wider industry forward.

Focusing on potatoes, one of the new Strategic Farms will be in East Anglia or the East Midlands, said the AHDB. The other will focus on cereals and oilseeds. It will be located in either south-east or south-west England.

AHDB head of arable knowledge exchange Tim Isaac said: “Following the success of the seven current Strategic Arable Farms, we now need two new hosts to help us build on the momentum and further develop the programme across the country.”

Practical changes

The aim of the initiative is to get farmers working together and discussing how to make positive and practical changes to improve productivity. Adding local knowledge and experience to the latest research increases the speed at which new innovations are adopted in a given area.

Mr Isaac said: “The host will be a key part of this exciting process, so we are looking for open minded, forward-thinking growers who enjoy working with others.”

Another key element of the programme is benchmarking. In order to identify cost effective improvements, host farmers are asked to measure both agronomic and economic performance using AHDB’s Farmbench tool.

Strategic Potato Farm host Andrew Francis, of Elveden Farms near Thetford, said the intiative had helped to improve business performance by encouraging uptake of the latest thinking and enabling growers to share their experiences.

Best practice

“Our decision to host a Strategic Farm was born out of a quest for knowledge. We have several challenges in our business that are the same for others in the area who also have light soils. Having a Strategic Farm here allows us to look at best practice and innovation.”

Topics covered so far have included potato common scab control, nitrogen use efficiency under differing irrigation regimes, manipulation of potato tuber numbers, and reducing soil run-off and associated pollution.

Strategic Farms provide growers with a platform to explore the potential for new research and technology alongside experts and researchers, giving them the confidence to implement new ideas on their own farms.

Brian Barker hosts a Strategic Farm near Stowmarket, Suffolk. He said: “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for my farming career – it’s extra work, but the knowledge I’ll gain about my farm will reap rewards in the long term.”

The Strategic Farm network provides a vehicle for the on-farm application of the science from AHDB’s extensive research and development programme in a commercial environment.

The closing date for applications is by 11 January 2019. For full details about the invitation to apply, please contact graham.bannister@ahdb.org.uk.

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