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Weekly Wisdom Report – Wednesday March 1 2017

Yesterday was the Lincolnshire Farming Conference. The afternoon was informative and well spent with talks from a number of industry professionals.

Britain’s decision to leave the EU poses many threats to a number of sectors in the UK’s economy, most notably the farming industry.

With a high level of uncertainty over the future of the UK agricultural sector, at this time in transition, it is especially important that UK farmers are up to speed with the impact that Brexit could impose on their business.

The conference gave insight and analysis as well as an opportunity to meet with others in the industry in order to lead their sector into a positive light for the future of farming.

This included talks from a number of speakers, case studies and one to one sessions with industry experts from accountants to agronomists.

The conference was introduced and facilitated by Andrew Ward who spoke about the importance of Glyphosate to arable farms and asked ‘Can you farm without it?’ Mr Ward asked the delegates to write to their local MP’s and MEP’s in order to stress how vital Glyphosate is to arable farming systems, as a way to enable Glyphosate usage to continue.

The first guest speaker was Kelly Hewson– Fisher, who joined Anglian Water in April 2015 and spoke about her topic ‘Why Water’. The main message from this was to highlight how important it is for growers to control and capture pesticides in yards in order to give a positive perception to the public on pesticide usage. Kelly provided information on farmers can do this and explained that the industry cannot afford to lose any more active ingredients that are heavily relied on.

The following guest speaker was Bill Clark from NIAB. I found this talk of particular interest with the topic of interest being ‘Managing Uncertainty in Cereal Disease Control Strategies’. I felt that this topic was of most value and interest to my role with Cope Seeds.

Firstly, Bill spoke around the topic of cereal prices and introduced the ARTIS model which is an online tool used to plan inputs e.g. fungicides in order to create a margin curve. Bill explained that you are able to see your optimum range and as long as you remain within your optimum, there is no need to react. For example, you do not need to increase your spend or fungicide programme.

Bill showed delegates how chemical performance will vary per country and so we should focus on local data in order to be given an insight into what will work on our farms.

Recently we have seen Septoria on Barley which has caused there to be much uncertainty. This change in resistance is blamed by warmer environments along with new/ severe diseases being introduced.

Mr Clark raised the point that low untreated yield varieties have the best response to fungicides. In addition to this, Mr Clark addressed that high yielding varieties were unresponsive with varieties including Conqueror and Santiago.

Newer varieties to the Recommended List include Belgrade, Crispin and Siskin. The fungicide treated yields for these varieties are as high as those of dirty varieties. The varieties named will however need fungicides managed by good timing and product choice.

Mr Clark explained new breeding technologies at NIAB and spoke about Synthetic Wheats or ‘Super Wheats’. These are said to be introduced in the next 4/5 years are said to have 20% higher yields than any wheat varieties currently in the market. These Synthetic Wheats are the equivalent to 40 years of plant breeding.

Yellow Rust was another hot topic of conversation and Mr Clark explained how yellow rust is now a Nationwide and is not just an Eastern problem. It was also said that resistant varieties can also show symptoms of Yellow Rust.

Mr Clark then went on to discussing the diseases Septoria and Tan Spot, explaining that timing of applications for sprays is vital in order to manage diseases.

The final topic of discussion was on EU Legislation. Mr Clark pointed out that going forward, the industry will have fewer active ingredients for use in crop production and regulatory controls will be much tighter.

More active ingredients are currently at risk of being taken out of usage and stressed that fewer active ingredients are being introduced into the market.

In summary, Bill Clark addressed that many growers haven’t reacted to industry advances and are still using the same spray rates as they were 10 years ago. Growers must manage and be responsible for fungicide usage in order to ensure fungicides are not made illegal.

Speaking next was Doug Wanstall who is a Nuffield Scholar based in Kent.

Doug’s topic was focused on ‘Building Financial Resilience in Farm Business’ and explained how his 445 hectare arable farm is now operating three wedding venues, a cookery school and also have involvement in a food wholesaling business. Doug also manages a free range egg business with 170,000 laying birds that are spread across a number of counties.

Later in the afternoon, Graham Redman from The Andersons Centre spoke about how to remain competitive, interpreting the latest industry figures.

The final speaker of the day was Guy Smith, Vice Chair of the NFU.

In the current climate of political uncertainty, there are many challenges out there for farmers, but with this comes real opportunities. For example, the Government’s new Industrial Strategy offers the opportunity to strengthen the food and drink sector as well as farming’s unique position in providing environmental goods and services.

Farmers and growers across agriculture and horticulture have set out eight general research priorities that would boost the sector’s contribution to the economic and environmental performance of the UK food production system.

These eight priorities are:

• Digital, data-driven and engineering technologies
• Crop and livestock genetics and breeding technologies
• Interactions between air, soil, water and crop/animal processes within farming systems
• Integrated approaches to management of crop weeds, pests and diseases
• Integrated approaches to management of animal disease within farming systems
• Evidence-based management and valuation of ecosystem service provision from farming systems
• Skills, training and KE
• Use of social and economic sciences