'Monitor Farm' explores a greener future for food production
- Credit: Teresa Meadows
Trials exploring ways to boost the sustainability of agriculture were discussed during the first post-lockdown meeting at the Diss Monitor Farm.
Rookery Farm, at Wortham near Diss, is Norfolk's representative on the national knowledge-sharing network run by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
With the industry facing tighter emissions targets and the shift from subsidies to environmental payments, more than 50 farmers joined two in-field sessions to hear about the latest efforts to reduce chemical use and improve efficiency.
They include crop disease forecasting using data from a weather station, which is being used to target fungicide strategies, and companion crop options across four oilseed rape fields to assess their effects on cabbage stem flea beetles in the absence of banned pesticides.
And there is a series of 15 tramline trials testing nitrification inhibitors - chemical compounds that slow the nitrification of urea fertilisers, improving its efficiency and helping reduce losses of nitrogen in the soil.
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Monitor Farm manager Richard Ling said: "The whole theory behind it is we have got potential legislation changes further down the road, and particularly nitrogen and urea [fertilisers] are going to come under a lot of scrutiny. So we thought it was a good idea to look into it.
"Looking ahead, if we are going to be made to reduce the amount of nitrogen we put on, or we want to reduce it to lower our carbon footprint, then we need to pull together some trial data to understand what happens.
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"There is now a lot more openness for farmers to share things, and to try things. As farmers, we often get presented with trials data for lots of different products - you can have all the trials data in the world but if it is not relevant to your climatic area then it is not going to work on your farm.
"For me, that is why I wanted to be a Monitor Farmer, to be at the forefront of pushing the subjects that we need to get into, and sidestep the commercial aspect for a moment to make sure we are using the right products in the right place."
Teresa Meadows, knowledge exchange manager for the AHDB, said: "It is all about sustainability - improving yields and the environment at the same time.
"Ultimately we all need to be thinking about carbon and the next steps. That discussion is probably as important now as it ever will be. Everyone has similar challenges of the weather and the climate and policy change, so to have that discussion and share those experiences - that is the role of the Monitor Farm."
Results from the trials will be shared at the Monitor Farm's winter meetings.