We began “on-farm” trials at College Farm in 2015 and have been visiting it several times each year for our Sky Roadshows and Field walks. College Farm, comprising 100ha of arable and 10ha of grass, is a fully working farm in its third full season of reduced tillage as we transition to Conservation Agriculture. Joe Redman, SKY drills product specialist and Ian Gould from Oakbank Seeds will be looking at established winter crops and discussing how catch crops, compost and low disturbance sub-soiling have benefited the heavy clay soil.
The field walk on 27th February is a “warts and all” opportunity to have an open and honest discussion and to share our learnings with you. This season we are trialling Medik companion cropping in the first wheat and Lucerne in the winter barley for the first time.
In particular we will look at progress on:
- The importance of low disturbance subsoiling in the transition to Conservation Agriculture
- 1st wheat following OSR with white clover companion
- 2nd wheat following catch crop of Black Oats, Beersem Clover, Oil Radish, Phacelia, Buckwheat
- Cover crop management & impact on soil structure, health and bio diversity 3 years in.
- Legume companion cropping with winter cereals
We do hope you will be able to join us. We expect the walk to last about 2 hours. There will be tea, coffee and bacon rolls on arrival. If you would like to come please email email@example.com so that we can plan for numbers. If you are unable to join us but would like to know about future events please email to let us know.
We have reluctantly taken the decision to CANCEL the Sky Roadshow at College farm on 18th October. As you are aware and given the exceptionally dry start to the new season, cover crops and OSR have not established as we had hoped and there will be little to show by mid-October.
For those interested College farm had 3mm in June, 10.5mm in July, 65mm in August (two thunderstorms in two days) and only 25.5mm in September! And as you know moisture is only part of the story, the continuous record breaking prolonged hot weather has only exacerbated the establishment conditions.
We intend to hold an extended field walk event on Wednesday 27th February 2019 to see how the soil and crops are faring. We will also take a look back over 2018 at the success and failures of the transition to no-till at college farm.
Stephen is a practical farmer and consultant. In 2016 he was appointed as the Soil and Water manager at Innovation for Agriculture, part of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. He supports organic farmers as the principal of “Abacus Organic Associates Ltd” providing sustainable farming consultancy throughout the UK and internationally. He has expertise in soil management, crop production, agroforestry and business management and is active in influencing agricultural policy at UK and EU levels.
He guest lecturers at Universities and has held posts on UK Government Policy and Research and Development Committees. Author of 'Organic Cereal and Pulse Production' (2011). Stephen was a 2011 Nuffield Farming Scholar studying Agroforestry in North America, Europe, Australasia & China. He was the first vice chairman of the European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) and has held posts on UK Government Policy and R&D Committees. Stephen is a founding director of ‘Speedwell Farming Ltd’ and is a Director of Anglo Chinese Food Ventures (ACFV) and he was a founding Director of the Institute of Organic Training and Advice.
At home, Stephen farms 270 acres of land in Cambridgeshire & in Rutland growing cereals, root crops, vegetable and fruit crops and is pioneering agroforestry, with the UK's largest system on 125 acres, growing apple trees and field crops together. Agroforestry - mixing trees with crops and or animals on the same plot, is a perfect example of ecological intensification.
Oakbank are a specialist game crop and stewardship mixture provider who advise farmers around the UK on species and mixtures associated with conservation agriculture.
The recent increase of interest in cover crops has highlighted a need for knowledge and experience in growing different species which Oakbank are well positioned to provide. www.oakbankgc.co.uk
For our 4th Sky Roadshow at College Farm on 22nd May we are fortunate to confirm Stephen Briggs, Head of Soil & Water at Innovation for Agriculture, soil specialist, practical farmer and consultant to share his extensive knowledge and experience. Stephen has been providing farm business consultancy throughout the UK and internationally for over 20 years and has delivered soil, water and crop advice and training to many UK farmers. He is active in influencing agricultural policy at both UK & EU levels. At the Sky Roadshow Stephen will focus on soil health and biology, particularly apposite now that Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has put soil directly in the spotlight
Joe Redman, OPICO’s Sky Drills Product Specialist will also look at the impact of cover crops on soil health, particularly the nitrogen fixing effect vs. applied fertilizers.
Ian Gould from Oakbank will then lead the group across the farm sharing practical learning from growing different cover crops on soil structure. Our plan is to have an open and honest discussion and share our experiences to date, warts and all!
If you would like to hear about future SKY events please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Over 25 farmers, agricultural dealers and agronomists joined Joe Redman, OPICO's conservation agriculture (Sky Drill) specialist and Ian Gould from Oakbank seeds for a morning walk across College Farm. The sun shone, the spade was out and quality discussions ensued.
The site of previous SKY Roadshows, College Farm is a fully working farm in its second full season employing the conservation agriculture technique. Joe and Ian will be looking at established winter crops and discussing how the various cover crops have benefited the soil ahead of spring drilling.
"The OSR companion cropping farm trial created a great deal of interest at the Autumn Roadshow and you will be able to see how the OSR has come through the winter in the different trials" explained James Woolway, MD at OPICO "We also have some "don't try this at home examples" where we haven't got it right so it should be an educational morning! Our plan is to have an open and honest discussion and share all our learnings to date with you."
In Autumn 2017, our third Sky Roadshows delved into the principles behind conservation agriculture. Guest speakers gave their view on the future of farm incentives and gave practical guidance on the process behind DEFRA's "Leader" and other funding currently available. Presentations were followed with field walking to show the impact of different cultivation methods, seeding methods and different cover crop and companion mixes following this year's wet harvest. Of particular interest was the companion mix sown with OSR.
Feedback from the event has been excellent with delegates being able to dig a little deeper into conservation agriculture and seeing for themselves how a Sky EasyDrill can enable them to drill in conventional, reduced till and no till system and why a Sky Drill is the most versatile and flexible drill on the market.
If you would like to hear about future SKY events please email email@example.com
In June 2017 OPICO, SKY Agriculture and our dealers invited farmers to come and learn more about the benefits of adopting reduced tillage and no-till systems to combat blackgrass, reduce establishment costs and improve soil health. We believe that No-till drilling is not a magic wand and cannot be adopted overnight so the Roadshow meetings explored the transition to less tillage; both the pitfalls and successes. We looked at integrating cover crops, altering rotations, incorporating fertiliser at seeding and of course minimal disturbance drilling.
Delegates came to find out how a Sky Drill's versatility can enable you to drill in conventional, reduced till and no-till systems and why it's the ideal machine for a gradual transition to reduced establishment cost, better soil and less blackgrass.
After studying engineering at agricultural college Christophe spent three years at the end of the eighties working in the United States where he learnt about different crop establishment systems. Back in France he became Sky's Chef de Product for the EasyDrill range and has now been working on min-till and no-till drilling with farmers all around the world for over 25 years. In this time Christophe has amassed a huge depth of knowledge of the associated techniques and agronomy. More recently he has spent a considerable amount of time trialling cover crops and different rotations in order to understand their interaction with no-till systems. He has also worked with conservation agriculture since the mid nineties, gaining experience from other parts of the world including South America, the US and Canada. A major part of his current role at Sky Agriculture is to spend time imparting his wealth of knowledge to customers working through the transition to No-till.
Sky Roadshow Host - June 2017
We Are Agrii
Agrii harnesses the power of skilled agronomists and the best intelligence to deliver unrivalled expertise and support for sustainable and profitable farming systems in the UK.
As a leading provider of agronomy services, technology and strategic advice, Agrii combines excellence and innovation with the latest research and development to ensure our customers can meet today’s farming challenges with knowledge and confidence.
Backed by in-depth research, we have more than three hundred BASIS-trained advisers who share a ‘total crop management’ philosophy. They draw upon the most comprehensive knowledge base on all aspects of successful agronomy and work with their farming customers to adopt management systems that deliver high output and lower costs of production.
Integrated Agronomy from Agrii
After weeks of heavy rainfall during Christmas and New Year 2013/14 left many thousands of acres underwater, James Winslade, farmer-owner of West Yeo farm came to prominence as an agricultural spokesperson for the area. About 94% of James farm, including his home, was underwater for several months.
When the floods eventually subsided James was left with almost barren land that has since been nurtured back to life. James will talk about his experiences, his conversion to a system of conservation agriculture, the importance of cover crops and minimal cultivation that he has employed to rejuvenate his land.
James will expand on both why he chose Sky's EasyDrill, when the time came to switch from a direct drill contractor to buying his own drill, as well as how he has used a rotation of cover crops to breathe life back into his soil.
James' relationship with OPICO goes back to 2012 after previous flooding when he used OPICO's sward lifter and sward rejuvenator on his grassland. James commented "I've know and trusted Richard Amphlet, (Territory Manager for OPICO) since 2012 and when I approached Masons Kings for a direct drill, and they suggested I try Sky's EasyDrill, I knew I would be in safe hands." Fortunately the EasyDrill performed as well as he had hoped and James was able to part fund it with a government Leader Grant.
We are fortunate to be invited onto James Winslade's farm for our Autumn 2017 Sky Roadshow.
Local agricultural dealer Masons Kings have supplied James Winslade with OPCIO grassland equipment, HE-VA Sub Soiler and Sky Easy Drill.
Masons Kings was established in 1974 as an agricultural machinery dealer and in 1985 became one of the first John Deere dealerships in the South West.
T H WHITE supply and maintain market-leading agricultural machinery brands, backed by reliable, knowledgeable support.
They offer comprehensive sales, servicing and breakdown cover for new and used agricultural equipment and pride themselves in helping to find the right machine for the job and keep it running smoothly. T H White's experienced staff have the agricultural know-how to enable farmers to get the best from their assets, offering expert advice to help farmers to keep on growing.
T H WHITE have embraced the SKY EasyDrill in light of its versatility with the ability to drill Direct, into mintill seedbeds, into grassland, through covercrops and in conventional cultivation systems.
As well as being New Holland dealers and specialists they sell a range of other brands, including OPICO, HE-VA and SKY, within their portfolio.
Brown&Co is a leading provider of agency, professional & consultancy services across the whole range of rural, commercial & residential property, agriculture & the environment. From a growing network of offices throughout East Anglia, the Midlands and Yorkshire & Humber region as well as internationally, Brown&Co combine a high level of specialist technical expertise with experience and local knowledge.
The firm has a real commitment to build strong, proactive and long term relationships with both corporate & private clients, for whom they always strive to deliver the best results and total satisfaction. Brown&Co are well placed, to assist farm businesses with grant funding applications (subject to availability) and have a high rate of success securing grant funding.
Chris Sheldon from Brown&Co's Grantham office shares his experience in securing a Leader grant to purchase a Sky Drill.
Pearce Seeds is part of the Pearce Group of Companies. The Pearce Group provides essential services and products for farmers across the South West.
Sporting and game products are supplied by Pearce Sporting Services, who provide: cover crops, agronomy support and game feed.
Mark Cole is the agronomist at West Yeo Farm.
Greenslade Taylor Hunt is one of the largest and longest established firms of Chartered Surveyors and Auctioneers in the West Country, with a team of agricultural specialists based across Devon, Somerset and Dorset. The agricultural department offers extensive expertise in various matters, including rural funding, valuation, compensation, planning, livestock marketing and on-site sales.