Posted March, 2nd, 2018

The BASE-UK AGM Conference held on the 6th and 7th February 2018 in Stratford Upon Avon was a great success.

James Warne has kindly written a summary:

Notes from a large conference…   A report on the BASE-UK AGM & Conference – 6th & 7th February 2018.

Over 70 people packed into the Cedar Room on the morning of the first day of a packed two day programme. The BASE-UK chairman, Edwin Taylor 3rd, opened the event with a minute’s silence in memory of the Honorary President Mr Jim Bullock.   Without Jim BASE-UK would not exist.  His dedication and warmth shone through and will be dearly missed by all.   Our thoughts go to his family and friends.

First up we welcomed an old friend from across the channel, Victor Leforestier, who gave us an inspiring presentation on Conservation Agriculture on his home farm.   This included sugar beet production using strip tillage into an over-wintered cover crop.   Victor then received a questions from the audience.  

Roger Sylvester-Bradley, plant pathologist form ADAS followed, who opened his presentation with the words I personally have wanted to hear for a long time, small replicated plot trials give too much variability to be worthwhile.   (I may have paraphrased there Roger) but that was the gist of it, however, what I wasn’t clear on was what the alternative was as Roger seemed to be suggesting that we should be doing on-farm trials using yield monitoring combines etc, but then suggested that tramline trials are as variable as small plot trials. #confused.   Roger also discussed the yield plateau in wheat and suggested this was down to lack of water during grain fill and suggested that this was either a soil issue or a rooting issue.   Either way there seemed to be little suggestion that it could also be a temperature or sunlight issue or even a crop nutrition issue.  I think this needs much more discussion…

Stephen Goodwin entertained us after lunch with an overview of his farming system and challenges at Marston St Lawrence.  Stephen is gradually returning livestock to the rotation and finding that this seems to bring about greater rewards from the CA based system.   Overall Stephen appeared to be finding that grass weed levels were falling.


The last session of the day was a panel debate receiving questions from the floor.


Our after-dinner (and during-dinner for Edwin & I) entertainment came in the form of Dr Geoff Mackey, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director of BASF who gave us a stimulating and thought provoking talk on ‘Sustain-a –what ability’.   The take home message is ‘alcohol is not a requirement for human life’.  We have one world, you can make a difference, keep it simple.  These are all beliefs which have a synergy with CA.


Almost 90 members attended the second day which included the AGM.  Edwin Taylor was re-elected as the chairman. New committee members were elected and some returning members were elected en-bloc.


Gary Markham gave an interesting presentation on benchmarking CA.  

While the data was only based on the handful of his clients undertaking CA/no-till it threw up some interesting questions…. especially around the yield expectations of no-till!


The joint winners of the FCCT Richard Suddes & Tim Parton (both BASE-UK members) gave us some inspirational talks on their current farming practices from different ends of the arable spectrum, one in the upland north east and the other on the lowlands in the west-midlands.   If nothing else, #givechangeatry

Jamie Stotka updated us on the trials work that has been ongoing since last year at Plantworks with regard to Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Funghi and free living nitrogen fixing bacteria.   The most relevant piece of work seemed to be that not all strain of bacteria will give a benefit to all plants, there are certainly specific bacterial species for specific plant species.   Watch this space.

Harry Henderson of the AHDB was up next for an update of the current AHDB work, unfortunately for Harry his computer had ‘senior moment’ and refused to work.   The blue touch paper was lit…   The moral of this story is always have a back-up plan!    All credit must go to Harry who handled the situation well and with good humour.  Well done Harry.


Finally what was probably the most practical and applicable, to most farmer members, was the presentation given by David Purdy.   Not only was his style of presentation easy going but he also conveyed some very difficult topics with some very simple answers.   If you are going to consider soil health, reduced tillage and the wider environment it could be a simple as considering the mass and it’s footprint of your tractor.   In a brilliant display of Geoff Mackey’s theory of ‘it’s simple to introduce sustainability’   David demonstrated how by considering tyre pressures, axel weights,  ballast and line of draft (to name a few) we can all make considerable improvements in fuel, time, and most importantly soil quality.    I would urge all those who read this to revisit David’s presentation and implement just a few of his points to improve your soil and your business.

Congratulations are warmly extended to the BASE-UK committee, and especially Rebecca, for organising a brilliant two days. Thank you.

Many thanks to James and to all our guest speakers and member speakers.

The feedback for this conference has been that this year we an excellent balance of farmer and expert speakers and delegates most enjoyed the opportunity the question panel gave them to interact with the speakers and get questions answered.  I think, if we had had more time this would have gone on for an hour or so longer!

This year we did not record the presentations however, if any BASE-UK Members would like copies of the PowerPoint presentations, please email Rebecca on to request – please specify speaker.

Next year’s AGM will be on the 6th February – please save the date!!