Strategic Farm water trials have ‘helped me sleep at night’

Trials on water use completed at Elveden Farms as part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Farm Excellence programme have enabled Andrew Francis to react with more accuracy during this summer’s heatwave.

This was the verdict he delivered when addressing over 100 visitors to the farm for the Strategic Farm East Open Day on Thursday.

“I don’t think any of us are sleeping very well at the moment, given the conditions, but the work we did last year has helped me get some sleep,” he said.

“After the work through the SPot [Strategic Potato] Farm programme, we now know our varieties better.

“We conducted a trial on irrigation and common scab control, and we are able to use the knowledge gained to know which of our varieties can last a day or two longer without an irrigation, and which we need to target more regularly.”

‘What we need is rain’

In the weeks leading up to the event, crop around the country had been holding up well, in the round, though most agree that the need for a break in the weather was increasing with every day.

Andrew added: “What we really need is rain. Nobody’s systems are set up for a full growing season without rain, and at the minute that’s what we’re heading for.

“Rainwater has that ‘X-factor’ that the crop loves, it has a lasting benefit. Plus, while we’re not hitting water availability warnings yet, who knows what problems we’re building for next season.”

Senior knowledge exchange manager for AHDB Potatoes, Graham Bannister, said: “We know how resourceful our growers are, but we are here to help accelerate innovation and the take-up of best practice if we can.”

David Murdie, potato manager at Grampian Growers, said the event, and the programme in general, has been very helpful.

“I always come away from Strategic Farm meetings with two or three things that I can share with other growers.

“This was an excellent, practical, event with speakers who translated research into usable ideas,” he said.

Future events

AHDB Potatoes has five strategic farms spread across Great Britain, part of a network of over 50 farms in the Farm Excellence Network.

The next event at each farm is:

  • Strategic Farm North (North Lincs) – field walk July 19;
  • Strategic Farm West (Shropshire) – field walk July 27;
  • Strategic Farm South West (Somerset) – open day July 31;
  • Strategic Farm East (Suffolk) – field walk August 2;
  • Strategic Farm Scotland (Perthshire) – results day March 2019.

Results days for each farm, where data from trials and demonstrations are presented by the farm manager and the researchers they have been working with, will be held between January and March 2019.