The Cereals Event is being held in Lincolnshire this year. Marianne Curtis speaks to NFU Lincolnshire county chairman Mark Leggott about farming in the county.
Lincolnshire has strong farming credentials with more than half a million hectares (73%) of its land area accounted for by farming and horticulture.
Farm size tends to be larger than average and there are some landowners with up to 8,000ha. Beeswax Dyson Farming has several estates in the county.
According to NFU figures it grows 11% of England’s wheat and 26% of its vegetable and salad crops. Soil type varies considerably across the county and even within a small locality, explains NFU county chairman for Lincolnshire, Mark Leggott.
“Most of the silts are in the south of the county but also in the Trent valley in the north of the county where light, sandy soils are virtually all irrigated. Early potatoes and processing potatoes are grown on the light soils.
“In the Fens it can change from clay to sandy clay loam in a very short space of time. There is heathland north and south of Lincoln and rolling limestone which is good for potato skin finish and also suits vining peas, sugar beet, spring and winter barley and some milling wheat.”
In parts of the Lincolnshire Wolds, combinable crops and in some cases, livestock, dominate as it is too steep for potato growing, says Mr Leggott.
Some farms close to Boston produce solely vegetables, he adds. “They are mainly growing brassicas with Brussels sprouts in the winter followed by purple sprouting broccoli in the spring.”
Mr Leggott grows wheat, sugar beet and vining peas in Holland Fen, 10 miles north of Boston. “We’ve had two bad seasons with vining peas with very little income whereas wheat has been yielding over four tonnes an acre and averaging £175/t.”
Key agricultural traders in Lincolnshire include Frontier and Openfield as well as small independent merchants.
While the bulk of vegetable crops grown in Lincolnshire are sold in the UK, supplemented by imports when there is insufficient produce to meet market demand, oilseed rape is an important crop for exports, going to European crushers for biofuels, says Mr Leggott.
“On the cereals side, malting barley and feed barley is exported – not massive volumes but it all helps. Some Grade 4 hard wheat is also exported for bioethanol production at times.”
In common with growers in other areas, Mr Leggott cites loss of actives as a key issue. Loss of neonicotinoids is a concern in cereals, sugar beet and OSR, he says.
“Sugar beet can potentially be affected by virus yellows if growers do not start spraying aphids soon enough – they may have to spray 3-4 times – what are the public going to say?”
Cabbage stem flea beetle continues to be a problem in OSR crops but tends to have less impact on heavier clay soils, he notes.
Concerning slug control, Mr Leggott says: “We can live with loss of metaldehyde as we have ferric phosphate but it will bump up the costs.”
Loss of CIPC will affect potato growers with ambient stores who rely heavily on it, says Mr Leggott.
“Unless DMN approval is fast-tracked for UK growers there is a risk we will lose CIPC before it receives approval. There are things like spearmint oil but they are not as persistent.”
When he visits the Cereals Event this year, Mr Leggott says he will be looking at disc or tine drills with the ability to bury wheat seed deeper to protect it from damage resulting from pre-ems. Currently he has a 4-metre combination drill with Suffolk coulters.
Sources: NFU, Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership