For award-winning Worcestershire arable farmer Jonathan Boaz using farmyard manure to improve organic matter in his soils is key.
Mr Boaz won the 2016 British Farming Innovator of the Year award.
Farming a total of 243ha, soils across Mill Farm, Huddington, near Drotwich are varied, ranging from free draining to heavy clays which are prone to anaerobic conditions. To tackle this, Jonathan uses a combination of technology and nature.
The rotation is wheat followed by barley, and then a grass ley. The grass ley is used for tackling difficult grass weed issues, such as where there are high levels of black-grass.
These grass leys receive leaf mulch from ditches along with manure, straw hay waste and wood chip, as well as straight manure imported from nearby livestock farms.
Being located in a NVZ, he has to comply with tight legislation on managing and recording manure.
On the advice of his agronomist, Richard Robinson of Hutchinsons, he adopted the web-based system Omnia.
Omnia generates manure management plans that meet all the legislative requirements for livestock manures, digestate covering field and farm limits, field spreading areas, risk maps and storage requirements, explains Mr Robinson.
Using Omnia has made compliance much easier, and also helps him match applications to soil requirements. This is because it can produce organic manure & compost maps for each field on a field scale or zoned sub-field basis, meaning he can access risk assessments of FYM applications by simply pushing a button
“By knowing where the risks are, it is easier to make sure your FYM applications stay in the field – and helps keep ditches and running water clean,” says Mr Robinson.
A further benefit he has found with the Omnia system is its ability to overlay the manure mapping feature with nutrient mapping, which generate maps for full nutrient recommendations of the crops on which the manure is being used and what fertiliser needs to be bought in.
The additional function then helps Mr Boaz ensure crop nutrient applications meet the crop’s real needs and avoids potential short-falls or over-application, optimising yield and quality.
For example it identified a need to top up phosphate and sulphur, so Mr Boaz chose to use Fibrophos along with nitrogen with sulphur. Fibrophos is also used to improve organic matter on a one in four-year application.
Mr Boaz who is a member of Red Tractor, NFU & CLM tries to farm so that the soil is in the very best condition to grow a good crop.
Since winning British Farming Innovator of the Year award in 2016, he has been championing others to farm in this way.
“You can only get something out of the field as long as you put something back in, with the Omnia program I can get a better understanding of my soil and what we need to do next.”