Take care of your farm’s biggest asset

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This article was first published in the June edition of 3 Counties Farmer I've been told on many occasions the best time to plant a tree was 40 years ago and the next best time is... tomorrow! Thinking further than a day ahead can seem quite difficult when you are in the thick of a busy growing season, hampered by cold and wet conditions while atte...
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When is best to drill your game and stewardship crops?

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With the sun shining and spring positively blooming just now, many growers will be overcome with the itch to start drilling. However, it's worth asking yourself - is now really a good time to drill your game cover, wild bird seed, nectar flower and other stewardship features? Good things come to those who wait In most instances (especially for kale...
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Will cover crops benefit farmers north of the border?

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With the environmental and agronomic benefits they bring, it is not surprising that cover crops have become increasingly popular throughout the UK. However in Scotland, thanks to cooler climates and the later harvest of cereal crops, the use of over-winter cover crops poses a particular challenge. For example In Tayside, spring barley will typicall...
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Thoughts from the field

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Over the last two weeks, my travels have taken me as far as the Scottish Borders right down to glorious Exmoor. Along the way I've been stopping off to visit customers and present to growers, both of which have offered me a fascinating insight into where the farming, greening and sporting worlds are currently at. To better explain, I thought it wou...
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Crucial considerations for successful spring crop establishment following cover crops

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By now, most farmers have destroyed their cover crops and are waiting for the 'ideal' time to drill their spring crops. On heavy land however, that 'ideal' might never come and it's often a test of nerves to see when the land will be fit enough to stand the pressures of heavy machinery. While we seem to be experiencing further adverse weather condi...
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Working Catchment Sensitive Farming and farmland wildlife options within Mid Tier

Working Catchment Sensitive Farming and farmland wildlife options within Mid Tier
Following Michael Gove's recent speech at the Oxford Farming Conference in which he began to outline the future direction of agricultural policy in England, it is becoming increasingly clear that soil health, water quality and biodiversity are very high up on the agenda. These issues could be addressed with the 'stick' of regulation or with the 'ca...
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The Big Farmland Bird Count

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With winter in full swing and farmland birds seeking out all of the opportunities on farm to feed themselves, now is the time to see how they are faring on your own farm. Each year, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) host the Big Farmland Bird Count. Farmers and land managers undertake a lot of work to help protect and nurture the wild...
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Exploring your options for cover crop desiccation

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At this point in the New Year (and if you haven't already) it's time to plan how you're going to break down your cover crop. While it's true that frosts can do some of the work, most winters (including this one) won't kill cover crops outright. How yours is destroyed can be as important as what was actually grown to allow for the best entry into yo...
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Simplified offers for new Countryside Stewardship Agreements

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The complexities of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme have been well documented. They range from an over-complicated application process and onerous evidence and record-keeping requirements, to difficult to navigate online guidance and delays in agreement offers. In a recent announcement on the GOV.UK website, it seems that DEFRA and Natural Engla...
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Top tips if you're starting to supplementary feed

As temperatures plummet across the UK this week – and for pretty much the first time this winter – it's timely to begin spreading supplementary seed in key areas across the farm for our farmland birds. Sown wild bird seed mixtures may continue to do their job at this time of year but as they are depleted, many birds are at risk of starvation later ...
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Get a precise focus on your EFAs

Changes are ahead for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). However, by taking a more precise approach to tailor the farm areas allocated to EFAs and choosing longer term crop options, they still represent a fantastic opportunity to improve biodiversity and the farm's bottom line. EFAs have hit the headlines due to the imminent removal of the use of Plant...
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Grey partridges need you

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After a long and protracted harvest for many we are now seeing fields cleared leaving land and farm managers who have an interest in farmland wildlife with a hugely rewarding and valuable task to undertake... counting grey partridges! The grey partridge is a key farmland bird indicator species and helps to show that your hard work in terms of habit...
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Accepting EFA changes... and embracing them!

The latest Ecological Focus Area (EFA) changes announced for 2018 have caused much speculation among my colleagues and growers too. In particular, people have been very animated about the loss of crop protection products within EFAs, with some seeing it as reducing the value of EFA options on farm. Meanwhile, DEFRA termed this as a complete BAN whi...
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Hedgerows and woodland - Get ahead, get a plan

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The annual period during which landowners are prevented from cutting hedges under cross-compliance recently came to an end. With this important annual restriction in place to protect wildlife from 1 st March until 31 st August, it's tempting to set about hedge cutting in earnest come September. However, there are very good reasons to be selective w...
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Mid-Tier - five minutes to change your mind

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Given my role, you will not be surprised to learn that I am almost fanatical about getting land managers and farmers to take a look at Countryside Stewardship and particularly Mid Tier agreements. Oh no, I hear you groan! But give me five minutes and I will change your mind... It can't hurt to take a look, can it? I know from my conversations, both...
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