Brixworth Farming delivers agronomy services through BFC Agronomy, a stand-alone company run by Ian Matts. Close attention to detail and appropriate employment of precision farming techniques ensure that we make best use of the latest technology and procedures in a bid to optimise yields, minimise waste and reduce our environmental footprint.
Due to the predominantly heavy nature of the soils farmed in Northamptonshire, control of blackgrass has proved quite challenging and costly in recent years. To maintain a high focus on blackgrass control, Ian has written the Brixworth Farming Blackgrass Strategy Paper and each member of the arable team has received a copy and is informed of any updates.
Part of the strategy has been to widen the rotation, which now extends to five years: wheat/barley/oilseed rape/wheat beans, with the possibility of spring varieties of each crop being sown (except oilseed rape) to improve blackgrass control or to attract market premiums.
Our rotation is designed to spread the workload, provide optimum opportunities for cultural control of weeds, pests and diseases and spread the risks of low financial performance caused by weather or market supply and demand.
All fields are tested regularly for P,K, Mg and pH using a GPS aided grid system, allowing soil index contour maps to be created. From these fertiliser and lime is applied variably as needed.
Nitrogen is applied in the spring using the Yara N-Sensor to variably apply according to the crop requirement. Using the latest calibrations, such as the Absolute module for oilseed rape, nitrogen can be targeted to the areas of the field with the greatest demand, ensuring more efficient use of costly inputs, reducing the input costs per tonne and minimising over application which could have a negative impact on the environment.
Soils are also regularly tested for organic matter content with the aim to improve or at least maintain levels. On the most recent testing, the values ranged from just under 3% on the lightest soil types to almost 7% on the heavier soils, or those with a history of manure applications.
Lighter soils, with low organic matter are prioritised for manure applications to help build levels over time.
Where possible crop residues are incorporated.
Soils types across the BFC acreage are now being mapped, as it can be extremely variable within fields. This variability impacts on crop establishment, meaning that a single rate for drilling is not the most efficient. With the record of changes in soil type, variable rate plans can be created to take the differences in establishment into account at drilling, allowing better targeting of seed rates across each field and more even crop canopies in the spring.
Integrated Pest Management
Brixworth Farming adopts Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles on the land that it manages for its shareholders and customers, taking a holistic approach to crop health and protection. Crops are grown in a rotation to minimise the risk of build up of pests, disease and weeds. This also allows different cultivation systems with different crops to reduce the risk of soil compaction.
Varieties are selected not only for their ability to meet the intended market specifications but also on their agronomic characteristics, including resistance to pests and disease and ability to suppress weeds.
Cultivations are planned to provide, where possible, stale seedbeds for weed control, and seedbeds that maintain soil structure.
Plant Protection Products (PPPs) are used after consideration is given to alternative control measures. Timing and dose rate are planned taking label instructions and the needs of the environment into account; this includes reducing risk of harm to operators, the public and beneficial species and pollution of soil and water.
Resistance Management Strategy. To minimise the risk of reduced efficacy of PPPs, a strategy is in place which involves:
• Rotation of crops
• Risk based decision to use PPPs
• Use of appropriate dose rates
• Tank mixture of active ingredients
• Rotation of PPPs
• Rotation of cultivations
• Variety selection
Planning. Seasonal agronomic decisions are made by BASIS qualified persons who work to a well rehearsed forward plan. Short term decision making draws on local weather forecasts, pest and disease forecasting models and regular crop inspection by BASIS agronomists.
PPP Applications. PPPs are applied by NRoSO (National Register of Sprayer Operators) qualified sprayer operators using modern, well maintained equipment that is tested by independent qualified inspectors annually. Sprayers are fitted with automatic GPS linked nozzle cut off technology to minimise spray overlaps.