Farmer tries out new crop-growing aids as business becomes test-bed for latest tech
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 October 2020
The first in a series of UK farms which will provide a test-bed for new agricultural ideas has been launched in Suffolk.
Agronomists Hutchinsons chose a site near Bury St Edmunds to begin the roll-out of its Helix Technology Farms which are aimed at testing the value and benefits of new technologies on a real-life farm scale.
The host – Tom Jewers of GD Jewers & Son at Wood Hall Farm in Rattlesden – hopes it will help his business as UK farming moves away from direct subsidies and towards a new UK government-led ‘public money for public goods’ approach.
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Hutchinsons head of technology and innovation Stuart Hill said agronomists and growers will need new technologies and practices to enable them to become increasingly more efficient and adaptable.
The firm launched its national site – hosted by farmers Andrew and William Pitts in Northamptonshire – last year. Its work there has already helped the company with the launch of tools such as high resolution soil mapping system TerraMap, an Omnia weather data tool and a barley/cereal yellow dwarf viruses (BYDV) prediction model, the company said. Later this year it will be trying out a rotational planning tool and a carbon mapping tool.
The Helix East farm launch is the first in a series, with others planned in north and central England for later this year.
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Hutchinsons Helix East co-ordinator and crop nutrition specialist Rob Jewers will work closely with Tom Jewers (his second cousin) across all of the focus areas.
These will be run on an “improve or remove” basis, ensuring that improving farm performance and profitability remain the focus, said the company.
“Everything that we are doing on the Helix sites will link closely to integrated crop management (ICM) as we know that this will be a key requirement for future farming systems, and we are able to trial and test them within this context which is a really valuable output,” said Rob.
Tom said he was particularly interested in how he can use technology such as Omnia’s yield performance and cost of production mapping to allow him to keep ahead of the game when the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme comes into force.
“As we move to public money for public goods, I need to know what my best options are so now is the time to test these. If I know what works for me, we will be ‘match fit’ by the time ELM is rolled out,” he said.
Tom will work with Hutchinsons agronomist Mike Greener to look at different crop variety blends as a way of managing disease and seeing if applying plant feed to leaves can replace other ways of providing fertiliser for crops.
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