Harvest 2021 trials at AHDB Strategic Cereal Farms will focus on the prevention, detection and control of pests, weeds and diseases – key components of IPM (integrated pest management). Another consideration will be improving the farmed environment through cover cropping, cultivation and marginal land.
The trials and demonstrations are taking place at AHDB’s Strategic Cereal Farms in Suffolk, Warwickshire and Fife, during the next 12 months. Results from the trials and demonstrations will be available this time next year.
In Suffolk, Brian Barker, Strategic Cereal Farm East host, is investigating how to reduce pesticide use by testing fungicide application timings. He is also monitoring beneficial invertebrates and natural enemies in flower-rich grass margins and the surrounding crop.
Additionally, Mr Barker is looking at his use of marginal land to further develop his environmental credentials and is investigating how cover cropping can reduce leaching and enhance soil organic matter through a split field trial.
He said: “I can see cover crops being crucial for the environment going forwards and valuable for improving biodiversity.
“However, from a farming perspective, we need to balance long- and short-term costs and benefits.”
Rob Fox, host of Strategic Cereal Farm West in Warwickshire, is also looking at reducing his pesticide use. Mr Fox’s trial involves testing different agronomy programmes in winter wheat varieties. Like Mr Barker, Mr Fox is also monitoring beneficial invertebrates and natural enemies in flower-rich grass margins and the surrounding crop.
Elsewhere on farm, Mr Fox is also investigating cover cropping and wants to see how various amendments such as cover crops can improve soil organic matter.
Mr Fox hopes to understand the effect of different cultivation systems on crop rooting and yield in a six-year trial.
He said: “It is hard to predict what the season will be like and to tailor your cultivation appropriately.
“I would like to work the soils shallower, but in wet years, I cannot get the water away.”
David Aglen hosts the Strategic Cereal Farm Scotland in Fife. His priority is to understand the relationship between plant health and disease through tissue tests. He said: “Using tissue tests, we want to understand seasonal plant health changes and crops’ vulnerability to disease.”
Having only joined the programme earlier this year, David will also carry out soil baselining using AHDB’s soil health scorecard to understand the biological, chemical and physical status of the soil.
AHDB is working with three contractors to carry out the assessments, in conjunction with the farm hosts and AHDB researchers: NIAB for the Strategic Cereal Farm East and an ADAS/SRUC collaboration for the West and Scotland.
AHDB’s Strategic Cereal Farm harvest 2021 trials follow the harvest 2020 trials, the results of which will be released and discussed during the upcoming Strategic Farm Week from 16 to 20 November. During this week, there will be seminars, a webinar and other online activities based around our themes of managed lower inputs and building diversity above and below ground. For more information and to register, please visit ahdb.org.uk/sfweek-winter-2020.
If you would like more information about our three Strategic Cereal Farms, please visit ahdb.org.uk/farm-excellence/cereals-oilseeds.