Monday, 3 October 2016

Farm walk at SPot Farm West, 22 September 2016

The date of the final farm walk at Thorpe Constantine gave a demanding deadline for Matt Smallwood of McCain and Mark Stalham and his colleagues of NIAB CUF to take yield digs. 

Neither man is shy with a fork, and there was some intense digging behind the results provided for the visitors.

Who got it right on cultivation?
A courteous veneer covered, but did not conceal, the competition between Mark Stalham of NIAB CUF and James Daw, the SPot host. As the visitors gathered round these two experts in the Russet Burbank of Field 33, each of them spoke about a ‘best practice’ treatment, but they weren’t referring to the same treatment!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Mummy and Daddy dare to do...

...what Granny or the Child Minder decide not to.

Out in the woods on a crisp January day, a child clamours to be allowed to cross the stream, walking on the trunk of a fallen tree.
The surface of the tree trunk glistens with frost.
(The parent thinks ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’)
“All right Jamie, be careful”.
('Good balance….. doing nicely…..')  
* Splash! *
“OK Jamie, I’ve got you. Now let’s run home and put you in a hot bath.”

This small story depicts how a parent might allow certain risks for their own child. 
However there are often others involved in the care of the child, and they will have to take a different stance in their considerations. 

Granny might like to say yes to Jamie, but is unsure of her daughter/son-in-law’s attitude to children learning by their mistakes. The Child Minder has to be mindful of Social Services.

There is a broader message behind this story that applies as much to farming and is simply that: 

Your attitude to risk depends on your position. 

A fact of life highlighted by a group of Procam agronomists in discussions at their first visit to a SPot Farm on 8 September at James Daw's (SPot Farm West).

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

'Scabby' findings and walking the tightrope at SPot Farm East

Welcome Back! 

I'm pleased to be able to report that we've had our final farm walk of the season at the Elveden Estate in what has been a brilliant first year at this site so far... and I thought it about time I got back on the blog to provide you with some interesting points of note!

But first, just to say, the efforts of the whole team involved in the programme have really generated a lot to talk about, alongside your inputs and interesting dialogue at each of the events - thank you for your critical part in the project!

Reporting on our final farm-walk then:

Visitors to the Elveden Estate’s last farm walk this season on September 1st saw how critical soil moisture can be to disease control... 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Competitive cultivation strategies: Who dares wins

Cultivation for all

NIAB CUF has conducted a range of experiments over the years on cultivation and this makes sense as a topic to investigate. 

Not everyone can choose their soils. Not all have access to water for irrigation. But all growers can manipulate their pre-planting cultivations and all aim to do the best possible job.

From 75 experiments over five years the conclusion is that 270 mm is the optimal depth for a destoned bed prior to planting, allowing the job to be done at a good speed without yield reduction compared with deeper cultivation. 

The trouble is that these results suggest that many growers don’t have things quite right, and this bone of contention can only be settled one way.

Olympics over but SPot still provides fierce competition

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Should potato crops be hardened up so they root deeper?

On August 18th SPot Farm West, James Daw’s farm, welcomed two specialist groups. 

Morning saw the ‘Next Generation’ and the afternoon welcomed the Independent Potato Agronomists. 
Facetious AHDB staff commented on the considerable difference between the average age in the morning and that of the afternoon.

Both youth and experience however, asked the same questions to Mark Stalham of NIAB CUF who was discussing irrigation:

Monday, 15 August 2016

Cover crops as drying agents - a happy accident!

We like stories of discoveries made by accident, with penicillin a prime example. 

The use of cover crops for making soil easier to cultivate isn’t a completely new idea, and it hardly comes into the penicillin category, but it was a striking finding at SPot Farm West this year which could benefit many growers.

The aim of the cover crop trial, as planned by Marc Allison of NIAB-CUF and host-farmer James Daw, was to see what reduction in nitrogen fertiliser should be made when cover crops or manure applications are made. There is a risk that manure or an incorporated cover crop could lead to excess nitrogen (N) take-up by the subsequent potato crop. 

The finding that a live cover crop at ploughing made the ground easier for all cultivations was incidental.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Didn’t they do well… now it’s your turn!

Hi there, good of you to pop by!  

With this season’s activities well under way thanks to the united efforts of Messrs Burgess, Francis, Stalham and Tomalin earlier in the year, thoughts are turning to what might be showcased next season at SPot Farm East.   

This is where you come in, what would YOU, yes YOU guys and gals, want to see at SPot East and talk about on twitter in 2017… in relation to potatoes of course!!

This year we showcased at SPot Farm East: