Important updates and advice regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)

Countryside Stewardship can help with difficult-to-farm areas

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In our industry, we might be forgiven for thinking 'we've seen it all' at times, but nothing could have prepared anyone for the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it is having on our lives, both at home and at work.

Reducing the risk to our customers and team is our number one priority, so we've been adopting new ways of working to make sure we're still able to support growers and provide valuable technical advice from afar. Who would have thought that a combination of phone calls, video conferences, and social media platforms could help us to safely deliver our services to farm businesses of all shapes and sizes?

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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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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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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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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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Countryside Stewardship - is it for you?

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As I sit here writing this blog in my office, from the corner of my eye I can see a fairly substantial pile of paperwork relating to the ten-or-so Countryside Stewardship applications I am putting together on behalf of customers. Thankfully, Natural England has extended the deadline for submitting completed applications to 31 st August, so I can br...
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Best practice for warm weather and high temperatures

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With the hot and dry weather set to continue, Kings sales manager, Richard Barnes, discusses the impact for game cover and wild bird seed crops across the UK and how to manage them for best results.   Having been an advisor with Kings for 15 years, how does this year's weather compare to that of previous years? Every year has its own challenge...
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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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#FrontierEast – Our 3D Thinking programme

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Earlier in the year, we hosted two meetings in the eastern region. With our 3D Thinking open days just around the corner and the opportunity to continue discussing some of the key topics raised, I thought it would be useful to look back at the information that was shared. Over 110 growers attended both events, descending upon the very frosty Walsha...
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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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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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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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Enhanced Metaldehyde Stewardship and Red Tractor

Since October 2017, adherence to the Enhanced Metaldehyde Stewardship has become a requirement of the Red Tractor scheme. The newly updated Combinable Crops and Sugar Beet and Fresh Produce standards will now be part of future crop audits and may have left you with several questions.   What does this mean for me? It will impact most growers an...
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