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Can you benefit from bare land?

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​Although the sun is out (as I write this anyway) I recognise that many areas of land are still plenty wet enough, and getting jobs done is tricky enough without getting covered in mud as soon as you hit a waterlogged bit of ground. That said, the upside is that many growers will be reviewing cropping plans on almost a weekly basis to ensure they are reflective of current conditions. 

With potentially 50% of the UK winter wheat crop sown there remains, subject to your area, a significant proportion of land yet to be planted. Spring crop opportunities remain unpredictable so, if some bare land is looking a likely scenario for the farm on which you work, you may want to think about the opportunities associated with it.

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Countryside Stewardship now open for 2021 agreements

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First things first – the window for Countryside Stewardship applications is now open!

As of 11th February, farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers now have the ability to request 2020 application packs. Information and forms are available on the gov.uk website and you can also ask for your application pack by email, choosing whether to receive it electronically or by post. 

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HLS agreement extension? Think before you sign...

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If you are one of the many farmers with a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement from Natural England that is due to expire, it's likely that you will have recently received a letter inviting you to extend your contract for another year.

While this is a positive and sensible move by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural England, especially while uncertainties around Brexit still unfold, it is only one option for you to consider. An 'agreement extension' may not necessarily be the best move for every farm business, or even for the wider natural environment for that matter. 

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The route to recovery

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Over recent weeks, from growers to advisors, we have all been doing our very best when it comes to taking an optimistic view when it comes to crossing our fingers for improving weather conditions. Each break in the rain was seen as a chink of light in what has been otherwise a torrid autumn when it comes to harvesting and planting progress.

All said and done it is clear now what we are faced with - crops of maize, beet and potatoes still in the ground; farmland flooded or at best waterlogged and a significant area of land previously allocated to autumn sown crops still unplanted. 

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'Precision conservation'

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'Precision conservation' is a relatively new phrase within our collective businesses and, as such, it is right to ask the question: What does it actually refer to?

For most, 'precision' and 'conservation' are two words not immediately associated with one another. In an agricultural context, 'conservation' can have us thinking wistfully of tussocky field corners and snaking wildflower margins. Of course, when you really think about it, the location of these features is never by accident. Some planning is always involved and that's when the link between the two words becomes clearer.

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Turning Countryside Stewardship negatives into positives

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The Kings team has delivered a series of grower workshops across a number of regions in recent weeks to provide support and insight on a wide range of land-based topics. These included getting the best from Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs), guidance on simplified offers from Natural England, and how best to integrate stewardship and sporting interests...
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Make the most of your ‘natural capital’

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'Natural capital' is a relatively new phrase within UK agriculture. We spoke about it as part of our presentations at this year's 3D Thinking seminars and it sparked a real interest amongst growers. As we explored the phrase's definition and what it meant for farmers, our audience soon recognised the importance of 'boarding the agri-environment bus...
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Countryside Stewardship – too good an opportunity to miss

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As we enter a period of change in agriculture, don't let niggles stop you acting to seize this huge opportunity. Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to go out for a meal unencumbered by children. As my mind works in rather convoluted ways, our time at the restaurant had me thinking about the parallels between what we experienced and, oddly,...
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Cover crop destruction: timings, species and methods

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Nearly everyone is talking about cover crops. Soil health and ways to preserve it have been prominent topics at recent farmer meetings that I've spoken at and the area of cover crops planted post-harvest has significantly increased. This isn't really surprising given the growing focus on water quality and last January's change in Ecological Focus A...
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Results Based Agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBAPS)

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Earlier this month I attended Natural England's RBAPS (known formerly as 'Payment by Results') conference which took place in Norfolk, not far from the Kings' office at Diss. With Brexit looming, the conference was especially topical. The Rt Hon the Lord Blencathra, deputy chair of Natural England, addressed all delegates in the morning and explain...
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Stewardship can be good for any business

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This article was first published in the December issue of Three Counties Farmer .  As soon as the autumn drilling and harvest period came to a satisfying conclusion, it seems thoughts and potential decisions immediately moved to the spring. No doubt the British weather will serve up some extremities in the coming months but, in the meantime, b...
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Balgonie: an Interreg North Sea Region PARTRIDGE project

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As part of my role as a Kings advisor, one of the great things I am involved with is the Balgonie grey partridge project in Fife. Balgonie features as one of 10 Interreg North Sea Region PARTRIDGE projects and, as with the work we also support at Loddington, it serves as a demonstration site and involves us working closely with the Game and Wildlif...
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Farmer Cluster Conference 2018

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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Farmer Cluster Conference. Held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute on 1 st November, the event was hosted by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), with support from Natural England. This year's event was the second of its kind and served as a way to bring together those who have organis...
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Supplementary feeding farmland birds

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The widespread decline of some of our most prominent farmland birds such as grey partridge, yellowhammer, tree sparrow and linnet is well known. A leading contributor to their plight is the so called 'hungry gap'; a period from December to April where there is a shortage of food in the wider countryside for farmland birds due to the natural depleti...
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Integrating new policy into the modern farming business

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This blog was first featured as an article in the November issue of Three Counties Farmer : The sun has continued to shine. As I write, the weather forecast shows a considerable rain event over the coming weekend preceding another settled spell. Autumn drilling and harvest continues but, with my growers at least, there isn't an air of com...
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Post-maize opportunities

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Over the last five-to-six years, it's been clear to see an ever-increasing area of maize being grown across the UK. Maize has a number of production uses but the most notable are bio-gas and forage. With so many now taking on the crop and due to the nature of which it is grown, it's important to consider careful management while it's in the ground ...
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Catch crops: don’t get caught out

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Catch crops, sown in the summer, can be used very effectively as part of an Ecological Focus Area (EFA) greening requirement. These crops offer potential benefits to soil and rotation management beyond the financial rewards of EFA. However, it's important to comply with EFA criteria around management dates. Catch crops that were established by the ...
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It’s win-win if we work together

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​ This blog was first featured as an article in the September issue of Three Counties Farmer What a difference a day makes. It's a lovely song by Dinah Washington, originally written in Spanish by Maria Grever. It's been covered by many artists over the years and no doubt murdered on the X Factor in more recent times. Having been lucky enough to tr...
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Potatoes in Practice

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Kings attended Potatoes in Practice this month, the UK's largest field-based potato event. Held at The James Hutton Institute's Balruddery Farm in Dundee, our team were delighted to be attending for a third year. The event comprised demonstrations of both varieties and machinery, highlighted innovative research and was a great platform for industry...
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What would Dragons' Den make of agriculture?

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This blog was first featured as an article in the August issue of Three Counties Farmer Since beginning these monthly columns back in March, I think we've experienced almost every weather condition Mother Nature could throw at us. At times I've written this while watching the snow settle ever deeper and the winds get bitterly cold. I've witnessed w...
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