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Farming has become 'too isolated' says grower who wants to share best practice

PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 July 2019

Farmers at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch  Picture: TOM HEBBERT

Farmers at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch Picture: TOM HEBBERT

AHDB

A farmer based on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk is encouraging other growers to talk to each other and challenge his farm practices as part of a nationwide bid to help build strong, sustainable arable businesses.

Richard Ling in a soil pit at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch  Picture: TOM HEBBERTRichard Ling in a soil pit at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch Picture: TOM HEBBERT

Richard Ling, based at Rookery Farm, Diss, has become the latest farmer to join farm levy payers' body the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board's (AHDB) Monitor Farm programme, which aims to improve the way UK farmers run their operations.

Richard, whose family-owned business features a beef finishing enterprise of British Blues grown under contract to one of the UK's biggest supermarkets - which sits alongside his arable cropping operation.

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At his launch meeting, he said he joined the programme because he wanted the AHDB scrutiny that comes with it.

"Farming has become too isolated," he said. "I want people to use the Diss Monitor Farm meetings to speak to each other, share ideas and get networking. It's only by talking to each other and challenging accepted practices can we hope to move forward as an industry."

Richard Ling in a soil pit at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch  Picture: TOM HEBBERTRichard Ling in a soil pit at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch Picture: TOM HEBBERT

Diss Monitor Farm is now part of a three-year programme supporting farmers to share best practice and improve performance.

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AHDB knowledge exchange manager for East Anglia Teresa Meadows said it had been a productive first meeting at Rookery Farm, looking at strengths and weaknesses of the business, as well as future opportunities and threats.

"To create this farmer-led programme, the attendees provided their main areas and ideas to take forward on this Monitor Farm for the next few years. We are looking forward to working with Richard - and the local industry - to look at managing his varied soil types and employing precision farming to best effect, along with managing manure, nutrient inputs and wider subjects," she said.

Richard Ling in his wheat field at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch  Picture: TOM HEBBERTRichard Ling in his wheat field at the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm launch Picture: TOM HEBBERT

One challenge faced by farmers is varied soil types, meaning inconsistent yields, so farmer delegates inspected soil pits in arable and pasture fields to help their understanding.

They also examined a crop of winter wheat and tried to predict the highest and lowest yielding parts of the field. The results will be revealed at the first winter meeting in November.

"Identifying where costs can be reduced is pivotal. Machinery is currently taking up a large slice of the farm's operating costs - I believe future savings can be made here," said Richard.

High quality manure from the farm's beef finishing enterprise has helped him to save money. Richard operates a policy of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), whereby the cows arrive on the farm at 12 weeks old, staying for around 12 months in a system designed to work in with his crop rotation, using forage from the grass meadows on the farm.

BBRO held its Beetfield19 at itsThelveton trials site, near Diss: Dr Simon Bowen discusses soil health with grower Tom Clarke  Picture: FRANCESCA BROOMBBRO held its Beetfield19 at itsThelveton trials site, near Diss: Dr Simon Bowen discusses soil health with grower Tom Clarke Picture: FRANCESCA BROOM

For details of the winter Diss Monitor Farm meetings, visit cereals.ahdb.org.uk/diss.

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