Suffolk crop farmers head Down Under to pick up growing tips
PUBLISHED: 10:57 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:57 27 March 2019
Three Suffolk farmers were among a group of 15 who travelled to New Zealand to get an insight into how New Zealand growers are managing to push up their yields.
Graham Thomson of Crabbes Farm, Parham, near Woodbridge, Peter Squirrell of Maypole Green Farm, Bradfield St George, near Bury St Edmunds, and Robert Wright, of White House Farm, Barnby, near Beccles, were part of a group which will be working with farm chemicals firm BASF to develop crop trials after seeing the New Zealand farmers in action.
The UK study tour spent two weeks in the Southern Pacific country touring top agricultural and exporting businesses with BASF, including the former and current world record holders for wheat yields.
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The farmers won the trip after scanning cans, last spring, of BASF’s cereal fungicides, Adexar and Librax, used to control Septoria and other foliar diseases on wheat.
Graham, who runs an arable and pig farm with his wife Alice, grows 450 hectares of arable crops and a number of crops for the seed market. He described the trip as hugely informative.
“We had a brilliant time discovering that the New Zealanders have their agrifood businesses down to a ‘t’,” he said.
“A huge amount of their fruit and veg produce is exported and the businesses we saw were set up perfectly for that. In a country with a population of approximately 5m people the agriculture industry is producing so much that there really is no option other than to export.
“We also saw a wide range of practices for cereal growing; some of the approaches were very simple and on other farms they had adopted GPS and variable rates for everything, both methods achieving very good yields.
“Personally, I don’t think the yields we are getting on our farm in Suffolk for our oilseed rape, barley and grass seed are a million miles away from those we saw in New Zealand. However, for our wheat there is room for improvement – climate and soil permitting.”
Peter, who has an arable and diversified farm business, said: “There is no one way to grow cereals and the farms that we visited covered a broad spectrum of methods. However, what they did have in common was high inputs, particularly nitrogen. They also spent more on plant growth regulator programmes and on fungicides too. Their growing season is longer than ours and growers want their cereals clean all the way down the plant whereas we tend to concentrate on just keeping them clean at the top.”
On the trip, the farmers were given sight of Revysol, a new cereal fungicide that BASF hopes to launch later this year in both the UK and New Zealand.
Graham said: “We saw Revysol in barley for the control of Ramularia, it looked very, very good. It really did control the disease and I fully intend to try it when it comes on the market.”
Robin Rose, BASF agronomy manager for Wales and the west of England accompanied the farmers on the tour.
“The engagement we got from the British farmers who came on the trip was incredible - many of them have come back reinvigorated and said they want to do trials and push yields on their own farms,” he said.
“So, we are setting up meetings with many of them and their agronomists to look at how we can work together. For us, it’s fantastic - like this we can get closer to farmers and find out what their day-to-day challenges are, and what their own specific limitations on yield are.”