David White arranged this visit following an invitation from David Purdy and on behalf of our members who were able to attend, our grateful thanks go to David Purdy for hosting us as well as Craig Morgan, Niall Atkinson and Philip Wright for taking the time to share their expertise. Our thanks also goes to Agrovista for kindly (and unexpectedly) sponsoring lunch for those who stayed to “network” further.
David White has written the following to summarise the day:
Quotes from the day:
“The value of my BASE-UK subscription returned in a single visit”.
“It’s criminal not to put a cover crop in the ground”.
Judging by the strength and temperature of the wind Agrovista’s Project Lamport site in Northamptonshire must have been an old airfield site, judging by the typography it certainly wasn’t!
The day was cold but thankfully dry for the BASE group of over 20 members that had a very thought-provoking visit to the home of Agrovista’s black grass trial site in Northamptonshire.
We saw a fascinating series of trial plots hosted by Craig Morgan and Niall Atkinson, demonstrating how after spending >£130/ha on chemical control in a traditional cultivation system you could still suffer over 500 heads of black grass a sq/m, but with a change of system and cropping that reduces down to ~1 a sq/m with minimal herbicide use. Soil disturbance, residue management, cover crop species and planting density, destruction timing and cash crop choice all play an important role.
The site is also the home of David Purdy’s @davidjpurdy750a extensive set of replicated trials studying all aspects of soil properties and “health” under various cultivation and cover crop treatments with 15 parameters being measured.
It will be interesting to see how the soil on the various plots changes over the next few years and this body of work will I am sure help add to our understanding and influence how we manage our soil in the future.
David also highlighted his participation in Tea Bag Index, see http://www.teatime4science.org/about/the-project/
We were also very fortunate to have the expertise of Philip Wright on hand to talk through his trial of strategic tine intervention to improve soil structure, sometimes in combination with growing cover crops to increase the benefit from improved rooting increasing the value of the seed investment on certain soil types #roots&iron
As one member commented after the visit; it was very much like an AA meeting, “there seem to be plenty of confessing to endless days cultivating, subsoiling, harrowing etc”, something many of us recognise and carry some guilt over, how much time and energy have we wasted over the years?
It was a very timely visit to see the systems trial areas as the spring cereals were just emerging and, as we have been invited back to the site in early July, we will get to see the results of this year’s work. The invitation with more detail will go out to members nearer the time.
I would finally like to thank Agrovista for their generosity in sponsoring lunch.