The series of 5 Repairing the Soil damage workshops got great feedback from all delegates who attended. The workshops which were organised as a result of farmer feedback at the Seedbed Management techniques day and recognition of the serious problems caused by the weather during 2012. A line up three expert speakers were:

Prof Dick Godwin – Drainage – the key factors and starting to address them

Rob Burtonshaw – Nuffield Scholar – Managing water through a well-managed drainage system

David White, Harper Adams University – Practical ways of assessing structural damage and how to remove it

It was obvious during the workshops that growers were adopting strategies that hadn’t been considered for a number of years due to the weather, but they were up for the challenge of changing practices to ensure their soils are looked after and allowed to recover. Nothing like ingenuity of farmers to make the best of a bad situation.

More workshops are planned for later in 2013 and the report for the first 5 workshops can be found here. The dates of the next workshops will be made available on the Soil & Water Management Centre website – www.soilandwater.org.uk

The demand for precision farming training courses doesn’t seem to be slowing down. At the end of 2012 I ran 15 workshops for farmers up and down the country on behalf of Catchment Sensitive Farming.

The 1/2 day courses were the Be precise training courses which have been delivered before, but not on a scale or volume like this. Working with local CSFOs we saw a very different set of farmers, generally farmers who had not been involved with precision farming before and wanted to know more. In a couple of areas we had very experienced farmers who were able to add practical hands on experiences to the course, this always goes down well with the rest of the delegates.

Thankfully feedback was really positive and a copy of the report can be found here.

hgca-bepreciseStarting on the 14th of November Catchment Sensitive farming (CSF), supported by HGCA, are organising 14 precision farming workshops for growers. I’m delivering the workshops on-behalf of HGCA and am very excited about working with so many farmers in such a short space of time.

The courses are free and include a free lunch and will cover the fundamentals of precision farming. Having run 10 of these courses already whether the grower is experienced with precision farming technology or not there is always something that can be learnt from these courses, so there is something for everyone.

The half day workshops, will cover a range of topics including,

1) How does PF work?

2) The Cost:Benefit opportunities of precision farming

3) What’s variation costing me?

4) What’s inaccuracy costing me?

5) Making the decision

To down load the course content click here:

 

The courses will be run in the following dates

14th November – NFU North West Branch, Agriculture House, Skelmersdale

15th November – Conkers, Nr Swadlincote, Derbyshire

16th November – Les Rosbifs at Northfield farm, Oakham, Leicestershire

20th November – Leaden Roding Village hall, Dunmow, Essex

21st November- Home Farm, Swanbourne, Bucks

22nd November- Rixworth Country Park, Brixworth, Northants

27th November- Crown Hotel, Blandford Forum, Dorset

28th November- Goodward Hotel, Chichester, West Sussex

29th November- Wherwell Cricket pavillion, Wherwell, Hampshire

4th December- Beal Farm, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

5th December- Bishop Burton College, East Riding of Yorkshire

6th December- Elsham Golf Club, Elsham, North Lincolnshire

13th December- The Rural Regeneration Centre, Hadlow, Kent

14th December- The Black Pig, Canterbury, Kent

To book on a course click here

survey shotI’m undertaking my biggest challenge to date, to carry out a global RTK Network Survey. This is because I’ve been asked so many times, ‘how many RTK networks are available to farmers’, ‘how many farmers use RTK networks in Europe’ and ‘How does the UK compare for RTK usage in comparison to the rest of the world’? So I’m going to undertake a survey on the number of RTK networks are available to farmers and growers across the UK and then the world.

 

The survey is simple to complete, it’s online and can be found at RTKnetworkSurvey.com. Please complete the survey if you are part of an RTK Network or forward the link to anyone who is.

 

I’ll gather the results together and post them on this website once I’ve analysed them and worked out what it all means! Appreciate your time in completing the survey.

AHDB photo
HGCA, PCL and HDC staff on a Be Precise training course at Crowmarsh Battle farms

10 staff members of HGCA, PCL and HDC participated in a Be Precise training course at Crowmarsh Battle farms in South Oxfordshire on Wednesday 21st March. The aim of the day was to expand the practical knowledge of precision farming with key members of staff rather than it just being a theoretical process.

I delivered the morning session, which was a Be Precise training course and I was ably assisted by Philip Chamberlain who owns the farm. He was able to provide real practical input of what he’s doing on the farm during the classroom session before we all moved outside to see tractors in action.

Then everyone had a ride on either a Cat tractor or the JCB Fasttrac, both equipped with RTK steering systems to demonstrate the steering systems and how they work in reality.

Overall a great day for everyone and huge smiles on everyone’s face after they had been on the tractors and the steering demonstrations. Thanks to Philip and his team at Crowmarsh for the use of their facilities.

The HGCA Be PRECISE campaign is still attracting interest from farmers, growers and agronomy groups. Sharing the fundamentals of Precision Farming still holds strong even with many people saying precision farming has been ‘done’, my feeling is it hasn’t and there is still many farmers who have to take full advantage of what precision farming has to offer.

I’ve been lucky enough to deliver presentations to almost 1000 farmers and agronomists since the start of the year at 12 events. Thanks to Bayer, Syngenta, Hutchinsons, Agrii, Muntons, Velcourt and United Oilseeds for inviting me to speak at your events. And I had some very kind feedback from David Neale at Agrii who said – May I thank you on behalf of the business for a most excellent presentation and delivery at Newark. We all felt your slides, understanding and content was spot on for the mixed audience we have on this subject. So that feedback was really appreciated. on

HGCA has a stand at the Precision Farming event on the 7th March, so visit the stand and ask any questions you may have on Precision Farming.

120ft drill-4

It’s one of those sites, even on a photograph, that make you go WOW. The photograph shows a NH T9060 pulling a 120ft wide drill across the plains of Walgett, North Western NSW . It must have been a stunning sight seeing this machine at work, I only saw the photos, but chatted to the NH staff who helped install the tractor and PF kit. The tractor and drill was working in a field that is 2km in length, the use of guidance technology is a no brainer to farmers across Australia. I learnt about this unit via Dan Halliday, the Precision Farming expert within NH Australia.

120ft drill 3I spent a week training the new support company for the NH precision farming software SGS, on how to use the NH Desktop software and that’s when you learn about what Aussie farmers are up to and where they want to go with their PF operations.

I felt that the best UK farmers would match the best Aussie farmers when it comes down to looking at their fields in the detail required to maximise yields and inputs. Very different drivers to managing their fields, but maximising inputs and maximising outputs is what both want to do. As to the rest of farmers the variability in skills is similar, many wanting to learn about precision farming but don’t know where to start.

It was the last day of term for the Landbased Diploma students today – 5th April – and for the last 3 week they have immersed themselves in lambing at Hill Farm, run by Roly & Camilla Puzey. Diploma students at workThey have been given the opportunity through the Earth Trusts farm start programme. Roly has been such a great advocate of sharing the beauties of farming with a wider audience since his days at LEAF. this has very much continued at Hill Farm.

 

Our students have immersed themselves in lambing – not just the glamorous jobs of helping give birth, but the less exciting but equally vital jobs of sweeping up, bedding down, cleaning out pens and moving ewes and lambs.

 

To complete the term, which was all based on animal production and the linkages with food production, we visted a local butcher – P1100068Gary Smith Butchers, in Wallingford.

 

Here Terry cut up one of the lambs and showed the students how it was done and why it was so important to handle the lambs carefully during the grading process. We’d actually been grading lambs the week before at Roly’s farm, but unfortunately we weren’t able to see Roly’s lambs. An added bonus to the visit for the Diploma Students was the opportunity to progress – Scott, terry’s apprentice had previously done a Countryside Stewardship course at Northmoor Trust and had progressed to butchery and is currently studying an NVQ in butchery.

 

Finally we thought it would be a good idea to round the day off with a trip to the local Waitrose store to compare prices of the 3 suppliers – Roly, Gary Smith Butchers and Waitrose. P1100073The most noticeable, and not surprisingly was the availability of New Zealand lamb in Waitrose over local lamb. Pricewise there wasn’t much to choose between them all, which was slightly surprisingly, but the general feeling was that supporting local producers was a good thing to do.

 

Overall a great last day before half term and the review of lambing and the production process is high on the agenda for the first day back on the 26th may.


The path of the proposed road to the north of the Serengeti and the alternative to the south

One of the wonders of the world has to be the migration of the Wildebeest Migration in East Africa. Some people have been lucky enough to see this amazing natural phenomenon, most of us haven’t. Before long none of us will have the opportunity to see it due to a major highway crossing the path of migration. Industrialisation and wealth generation is one thing, but should protecting one of the last great world migrations be protected?

Alternative routes are available to the Tanzanian government, but will they take they to preserve this incredible natural wonder? Tourism is important to Tanzania, but the wealth generation of mining would make tourism insignificant in real terms.

Wildebeest Migration

Wildebeest Migration

The proposed road cuts straight through the migration path the alternative road, which is designed to increased business opportunities across East Africa, has an alternative southern route. UNESCO are pitching in to the debate as are other organisations such as Serengeti Watch to help ensure the Southern route is chosen rather than the northern route.

So what’s the reason for the road? Commercial interests obviously and an article in the Tanzanian News would suggest this. Where’s the money coming from – probably China, due to the huge natural resources in and around Tanzania. The road would only be 40 miles in length, but it would be the end of the road for the Great Migration in a similar way to the Bison migrations in North America. At one time over 70miliion Bison roamed the Great Plains of North America, they are now down to 15,000 to 30,000 and how many people really care about that – this blog makes an interesting read.

What will it mean? The loss of  The Great Serengeti? Who knows, but all animals in the delecate ecosystem is worth saving too!


The Great Serengeti (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) A song to help save the Serengeti by: Mayuka Thaïs

logoThere’s been many articles written about the shortage of skilled people wanting to work in the agricultural industry, either as a farmer or in the allied industries. One of the best ways to encourage others is to share some of the jobs of people already involved in the industry.

If you have a story to tell then you can be part of a great new campaign, due to be launched later in November. If you have a story to tell and have 5 minuets to spare would you be willing to share your story – if so, give me a call on 07967 637 985, download a form from here and email it back to me.

I’ll share more with you later in the month, but the ingredients are there for a stunning campaign.