Topics
How to spot BSE and what farmers can do to prevent it

How to spot BSE and what farmers can do to prevent it

DataHub

DataHub

Dairy Farmer Magazine

Dairy Farmer Magazine

Auction Finder

Auction Finder

LAMMA 2019

LAMMA 2019

New to Farmers Guardian?
Register Now
Login or Register
New to Farmers Guardian?
Register Now
New to Farmers Guardian?
Register Now

The Arable Farm of 2027

Sponsored Article

They say a week is a long time in politics, so it is almost impossible to predict just what will happen in 10 years.

TwitterFacebook
Sponsored Article

They say a week is a long time in politics, so it is almost impossible to predict just what will happen in 10 years.

 

What is certain is we will be living in post-Brexit Britain, and the consequences of our exit from the EU will undoubtedly have had a profound effect in many areas including arable farming.

 

Many experts agree it is likely to herald a reduction in support, and greater accountability for the support which remains.

 

The rate of change in digital technology is obvious for all to see – just think what a mobile phone looked like 10 years ago – and everyone agrees the continued growth of field and crop data, and our ability to use it, is crucial to advances in integrated agronomy and farming systems.

 

Ten years, however, is a relatively short period in the life of new actives, crop varieties, or other new technologies such as biopesticides or biostimulants, which are being actively explored at the present time.

Trust, collaboration and innovation

Whatever advances are made in the next 10 years, Ewan McFarlane, Agrii’s digital business development manager, believes greater trust, better collaboration and more innovation will be crucial to the development of successful arable farms.

 

“Wherever you look in the supply chain, trust is an important element,” says Mr McFarlane. “Whether it’s developing greater levels of trust between farmers and agronomists in the sharing of data and implementation of decisions, or the ability of the consumer to trust the provenance of the food they buy.

 

“There has never been a more exciting or challenging time in terms of innovation, but successful implementation will require increased collaboration between farmers, agronomists and scientists. Improved communications and social media offer us the tools we need and we have to take full advantage of them.”

Agronomist is critical

Jack Watts, lead analyst (Cereal and Oilseeds) with AHDB, believes the role of the agronomist in 2027 will be more critical than ever.

 

“In 10 years’ time, we will have built even more on the current level of highly professional data-driven businesses, and the role of the agronomist will be critical in handling and interpreting data. Consolidation of businesses – with fewer larger farms – is inevitable, but I think Brexit, with the inevitable reduction of direct payments, will increase this trend.

Land ownership

“We have seen a trend towards those owning the land, not farming it, but instead using contractors who may be farming a large amount of land around one area.

 

Particularly in England, land remains attractive to investors and I can’t see that changing. It seems likely more companies will be farming multi-sites.”

 

Speaking at the Agricultural Industries Confederation’s Agribusiness 2017 event last year, Oliver McEntyre, national strategy director for Barclays Agriculture, pointed out in the past 12 months only 40% of farmland purchased in the UK was bought by farmers, while 60% was bought by investors.

Agronomy gap

For Steve Patterson, global crop manager for cereals at Bayer, there is no doubt arable farming will take place at the ‘sub-field’ level in 2027, aided by a variety of new technologies, but for him progress over the next decade is just as much about closing the ‘agronomy’ gap using currently available technology.

 

He says: “If you look at the average UK yield versus the top 10% of yield, even with similar environmental conditions and soil types – such as neighbouring farmers – it’s not unusual to have a 15-20% performance difference. For us closing that existing agronomy gap is just as critical as taking advantage of the new technologies out there.”

More risk

However, Mr Patterson also says risk is going to be a huge factor for the arable farmer of 2027. He says: “Everything we can see at the moment increases risk for farmers. Post-Brexit Britain has more uncertainty.

 

There may be less support and more openness to global markets. There will be more risk from volatility of weather, and from the constraints which will be on farmers from an environmental and regulatory point of view.

 

It’s all about risk management and arable farmers of 2027 are going to need some new tools to manage that risk. This will drive innovation and collaboration.”

 

While consumers’ desire to know more about where their food comes from will undoubtedly continue, Mr Watts believes a greater movement of population into rural areas will lead to greater accountability for farming as a whole, something which may well help to set the agenda for reduced direct support and a greater proportion of environmental services in any future payments.

 

“In a post-Brexit world farming will have to demonstrate it is providing good value for money in return for any support it is given, whether in terms of economic or environmental benefits,” he says. Mr Watts also envisages continued market volatility and increased global competitiveness, despite the well-documented need for world food production to increase by 40% in the next 20 years, and by 70% by the year 2050.

Post-Brexit opportunities

Independent wheat breeding consultant Bill Angus believes the post-Brexit world will provide opportunities for UK arable farmers. He says there will be opportunities to grow more of the wheats we are currently importing, as well as exporting more of the wheats we are good at growing such as biscuit wheat.

 

However, Mr Angus adds a cautionary note with regards to the new technologies and varieties which are coming along. “Attention to detail will be absolutely crucial,” he says, “If we don’t get the detail right and take a more strategic approach, we won’t get the full benefit from the new technologies.”

New genetic techniques

Mr Angus is among those industry experts who believe we cannot afford to ignore GM, and Dr Cristobal Uauy, of the John Innes Centre, asks the question ‘Is it sustainable to continue to ignore transgenics?’

 

However, while GM will remain controversial, even post-Brexit, there are other techniques which could accelerate and increase the accuracy of breeding and see new varieties appearing on farms within the 10-year timeline.

Climate change

Alongside growing global populations, climate change is another key element when it comes to considering what will happen over the next decade.

 

Recent figures released by the World Meteorological Organisation showed that 2016 was the hottest year on record and this trend is continuing into 2017. This will bring many challenges, but may also offer opportunities for growing new crops in the UK.

 

This supplement explores aspects of the arable farm of 2027, looking at developments in integrated agronomy; the environment; genetics and breeding; farm systems; and skills and education.

Emerging theme

A number of themes emerge, suggesting the tools and technology available to the arable farmer of the future will allow him or her to make much more informed decisions.

 

Having the knowledge and skills to use that information will be critical, and the role of the agronomist is likely to grow rather than reduce. Sharing of knowledge and transparency right across the supply chain from seed breeders and crop protection manufacturers, right through to consumers will be important.

 

All-in-all it is an exciting and challenging picture which will need more skilled, smart, data-savvy professionals managing bigger areas of land, whether owned or contracted.

TwitterFacebook
Post a Comment
To see comments and join in the conversation please log in.

Most Recent