AHDB’s first arable Strategic Farm will be based at E. J. Barker & Sons, Lodge Farm near Stowmarket in Suffolk.
Growers attending the launch event at the farm heard the Strategic Farm East, serving East Anglia, the East Midlands and the South East, was being ‘made to measure up for the future’.
Integrated within AHDB’s Farm Excellence Platform, Strategic Farms are based on commercial farms and aim to bridge the gap between research trials and practical application with the support of researchers, experts and new technology.
AHDB has around 30 Strategic Farms in other sectors.
Information on the wider ambition of the arable Strategic Farm programme was also revealed – including further details of plans to add two more arable farms to the network, one in 2018 and another in 2019.
Questions from AHDB Monitor Farm groups, research findings and innovative ideas for the future of the industry underpin Strategic Farm activity. Farmers and advisors at the launch were asked to identify where they felt the challenges to farming might be in ten years’ time and how the activities on the Strategic Farm could develop practical, relevant and fully costed solutions. Farming without glyphosate, validation of available precision farming technologies, new measuring and monitoring tools for agriculture and better understanding of crop nutrition were among the topics put forward for consideration.
Speaking at the launch event Strategic Farm East host farmer Brian Barker outlined some of the approaches used at Lodge Farm - an AHDB Monitor Farm 2014-2017 - including a shift from ploughing to strip tillage; crop benchmarking, including field-by-field cost of production analysis, and a range of landscape and nature measures.
“We are farming to potential, not hope,” he told the meeting. "We have an opportunity to test and develop strategies for how we might need to approach farming in the future.”
For further details on Strategic Farms, including how to apply for the chance to become the next strategic arable farmer, are available here
Provisional dates for the next Strategic Farm East field walks and open days are May 10 and June 7, 2018.
Measurements have been taken across the whole farm to establish baseline conditions.
Emily Smith, AHDB knowledge transfer manager, says: “The baseline assessments captured the physical, chemical and biological condition of the fields. The information will be used to monitor changes to the soil as the project progresses.”
The LEAF Sustainable Farming Review tool will be used as part of the efforts to measure the farm’s economic, environmental and social performance. Essex & Suffolk Water will also conduct analyses of rain and drainage water from the farm. A state-of-the art weather station and soil moisture probe have also been installed.
Research outcomes will be tested in a commercial farm rotation on a field or tramline scale. Economic analysis of each demonstration is also key to the Strategic Farm programme, using the AHDB Farmbench benchmarking tool.
The first demonstrations, which were drilled this autumn, focus on the interaction between rotation and soil quality and ways to boost wheat biomass during the foundation phase.