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Diss Monitor Farm launch sparks wide-ranging agricultural debates

PUBLISHED: 20:14 25 June 2019 | UPDATED: 20:17 25 June 2019

The launch of the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm project at Rookery Farm. Pictured: Farm manager Richard Ling (centre) discusses his soils with visitors. Picture: Teresa Meadows / AHDB

The launch of the AHDB Diss Monitor Farm project at Rookery Farm. Pictured: Farm manager Richard Ling (centre) discusses his soils with visitors. Picture: Teresa Meadows / AHDB

Teresa Meadows / AHDB

The new Diss Monitor Farm project has been launched with a wide-ranging discussion on the agronomic, political and even lifestyle factors affecting farm business decisions.

Around 45 growers, agronomists and industry representatives gathered at Rookery Farm in Wortham, near Diss, for its first meeting after joining the national knowledge-sharing network run by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Farmer Richard Ling led a tour of the farm, including analysis of its varied soils in arable cropped areas compared to a permanent pasture field, and how organic manure from the farm's beef enterprise is used.

Mr Ling said the successful inaugural event had achieved its primary goal of sparking beneficial conversations between farming professionals.

"We went up to the top of the farm, where I dug a couple of soil pits," he said "One was on a field of permanent pasture that had never been pulled up, so it was interesting to talk about the organic matter in there compared to the next field, an arable field with some clay underneath it. That was an oilseed rape field, so we were also talking about cabbage stem flea beetle pests and we discussed different systems for how people establish their oilseed rape.

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"We bandied a few things around as a group, and that was what we wanted to achieve - to promote conversations and see how other people perceive it.

"Another question that kept coming up was about how much machinery we have here. I jokingly said we had too much equipment to get people talking. Some of them could see the reasons behind why some of it was needed - for timeliness, and also I want to have the opportunity to scale up in future."

READ MORE: How adapting to change has shaped Diss Monitor Farm

After the farm walk, there was a group discussion on the "top ten issues" for the Monitor Farm programme, which included the impact of pesticide bans, the changing climate, diminishing soils, data management, government policy, the looming loss of EU subsidies, labour issues, water availability and rising input costs.

Mr Ling added a few of his own, including "lifestyle".

"Sometimes farmers' lifestyles get in the way of farming, but on the other hand sometimes the farming gets in the way of your lifestyle and the balance is not always correct," he said.

"You can easily get distracted from doing your job, or you can work too much and end up not seeing your family, and then it becomes a very lonely place. For me, it is about making sure everybody on the farm has the opportunity to have some down time."

Teresa Meadows, knowledge exchange manager for AHDB, said: "It is great to be in a new place with someone who has got passion and enthusiasm for what he is doing. We have got someone who is strong agronomically, but with a lot to offer personally."

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