1. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 25, 2014

    Australia – Final Thoughts
    by David Walston

    Decisions, decisions. To start with the practical or the philosophical? Let’s go for practical.

    It’s obvious that like after my trip to North America, the climate is so different in Australia that it’s not possible, or at least sensible, to import techniques wholesale. But that doesn’t mean inspiration isn’t there for the taking.

    I’ve been encouraged by how many people graze cash crops, specifically cereals and oilseed rape. There is plenty of conflicting evidence and experience about its potential harm, or lack of, to the following yields. But if anything I am more interested now than I was before - luckily as we have some wheat waiting to be grazed at home this year anyway. One thing that I hadn’t considered before was grazing rapeseed, which I think has more potential than the cereals. It could be a great way of planting early and relatively thickly, to mitigate flea beetle damage, and then grazing to get it back to a sensible size pre-winter. Originally, after meeting Hugh Dove, I thought it would help us with weed problems....
  2. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 23, 2014

    Day 56 – Clovers, chaff carts & airports
    by David Walston
    The last day in Australia, and technically I don't need to do any more travelling for Nuffield. They stipulate a minimum of 8 weeks travel, and last time I checked, that's 56 days. Don't tell my wife.

    I've spent the last couple of nights with the Barrett-Lennards who live just north of Gingin. It's their fault, through great hospitality, that I got behind on the blogs and have had to write three this afternoon. I'm knackered now so will have to make do with a slide show instead of a proper blog.

    Phil Barrett-Lennard's herd of 126 Red Angus cows & calves

    Phil's neighbour thinks he is mad. This is high quality oat & clover hay, but it is being left on the ground like this, where the cattle will graze it in situ. They apparently clean up every last bit, and it saves the cost of baling and muck spreading

    This is a field of Triticale, Italian Ryegrass, and...
  3. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 23, 2014

    Day 55 – Worm juice & Claying
    by David Walston
    I spent the night near Gingin, but I'll come back to that in tomorrow's blog. A bit of last minute planning was called on to arrange a visit to Diane Haggerty, who farms with her husband Ian on the more marginal land on the eastern side of the wheat belt. They have an interesting story, having run a petrol station for the first part of their marriage, before buying 660ha of run down farmland next to Diane's parents' farm. They put all of their money in to the land, and had none left over for machinery. Luckily being next to Dad has its benefits, so they could borrow a drill and tractor. This was in 1994, and luckily two good years followed, which allowed them to make some money. In the early 2000s they took on their first bit of rented land, and promptly had a total crop failure - but they scraped through.

    Since then they have managed to buy a little bit more land, but mainly the business has grown by renting degraded land that other farmers don't even bid for. The problem here is that the leases are short term, and once they have reversed the decline in productivity, the landlords then want more...
  4. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 23, 2014
    Day 54 – Lucerne, Lupins & Lablab
    Posted on November 23, 2014by David Walston

    Another two visits today. The first was to Rob Egerton-Warburton, who farms 5,000ha near Kojonup. He always thought that a career in IT was going to be his future, and his brother would be the farmer. After travelling he came back home and found he enjoyed it, and for a while the two of them farmed together – and bought some more land. After a few years the brother decided to go and work as a computer programmer, and left Rob to do the farming. Funny how these things work out.

    The farm is split roughly 50:50 between livestock and sheep at any one point, which Rob reckons is about the sweet spot for profitability. Like a lot of Aussie farmers he thinks that you get more from a mixed farm than the sum of the individual parts. It’s a lot of work, but amazing that they can crop 2,500ha and look after 13,000 head of sheep with only two full time employees.


    On one new bit of land, which was very unproductive, they spread lime, and then ploughed it in. Into this they...
  5. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 22, 2014

    Day 53 – UWA Trials & Microbes

    by David Walston

    Early start today, 5am, although it was a lie in compared to yesterday. You can fly in Australia without showing any sort of ID at all, which feels unusual. I thought it was a mistake the first time it happened.

    I had to be in Perth early to meet Dr Ken Flower, from the University of Western Australia. They have been running a trial comparing different crop rotations under no-till systems, which is currently in its 9th year. The four treatments they have used are,

    1. Maximum carbon - continuous cereals, including wheat, barley & oats
    2. Maximum diversity - cereals, OSR/Canola/Legume & occasional cover crops
    3. Controls - Permanent pasture & continuous wheat
    4. Maximum profit/standard district practice - cereals & legumes
    All of the treatments are also split into high and low residue sections. In the high residue all the straw is kept, whereas in the low it is wind rowed and burnt. They have been measuring profit levels, weed burdens, soil biology, soil carbon, and I'm sure plenty of other bits and bobs too. Here's a summary of some of the interesting things they have found, both in the trial and generally in the region.

    • Despite...
  6. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 19, 2014

    Day 52 – Some photos

    by David Walston

    I thought yesterday was an early start, but this morning the alarm was set for 4am. Zzzzzz

    More soil pits today. This is the latest Aussie tech in action. They are very proud

    This region, the Mallee, is renowned for its marginal arable soils. They are predominantly a fine dusty sand, but this is one of the better ones because it contains a bit of clay (15%). This field yielded about 2.2t/ha of wheat, and can get up to 4t/ha in a very good year

    A simple pH testing solution shows that the surface of the soil is significantly more acidic than what lies beneath

    This is an old root channel left over from before the bush had been cleared for agriculture. The hole has remained as a passage for water to run down, which has in turn bleached the sand. You can also see the salt that has been washed down with it

  7. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 19, 2014

    Day 51 – SOM testing, glyphosate & pH

    by David Walston
    I spent the day today with Michael Eyres, from Injekta Systems, who has organised the last couple of visits for me. He's a soil agronomist, which basically means he advises on how best to get nutrition into plants according to what type of soil you have on your farm. We drove up to Jamestown to see one of his clients, who has just taken on a new piece of land that he wanted testing.

    As the soils become more biologically active, ant numbers have increased. It's common to find places like this where they have collected up weed seeds and taken them underground as a food store, sort of like a squirrel. I wonder if this could ever have a significant effect on above ground seed populations?

    Michael is meticulous in his soil sampling technique, and he will make sure that each individual layer is tested separately. Often he will spend a day digging proper pits, but this was a quicky so they just took little core samples. This particular farm has two very distinct layers within the top 10cm or so. The top 5cm is particularly high in potassium which makes the clay particles stick...
  8. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 17, 2014

    Day 50 – Liquid delivery & snakes

    by David Walston
    It's the third time in three days that I drove this road, in hindsight I should have stayed out here really. First of all this morning I had a quick visit to Liquid Systems, who live in an industrial estate in the Adelaide suburbs. They are a small company, started by serial engineer Pete Burgess.

    The testing bench

    He claims to have developed the world's best system for delivering liquids fertilisers into a seed trench. Actually it doesn't have to be fertilisers, they can also put down fungicides, inoculants, acidifiers etc etc. One of the main distinguishing features is how the whole setup is under positive pressure, not gravity fed like a lot of the competitors. This means blockages are less likely, and the flow can be started and stopped much more quickly and accurately. It isn't quite as quick as an air cutoff sprayer, but not far away; there's maybe a 1-2 second delay from flicking the switch. The other claim to fame is a much higher working speed range, and all whilst keeping a constant stream as well. John Deere (who may soon start...
  9. News
    Created by News in category Business
    Nov 17, 2014
    Strictly Succession
    The intricacies and complexities of succession planning will be at the fore for the Future Farmers of Yorkshire group at their next meeting.

    Held at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, the speakers will cover the succession process, as well as the pitfalls, at the event on Monday 24 November.

    Future Farmer of Yorkshire member Kate Morgan, who is chairing the event, acknowledges that “Succession planning is still a hot topic for our members but many farming businesses tend to avoid thinking about, let alone talking about, this complicated, and potentially costly, topic.”

    Kate has been a Future Farmer member for two years and farms near Driffield where she is a Director of the family’s 1,700 pig enterprise.

    A team from Langleys Solicitors will set the scene of one farming family in role plays covering a series of typical situations, for example succession planning, inheritance, employment, matrimonial, siblings and elderly client issues. ‘The role play will make you laugh but we believe that most of the audience will recognise at least one of the problems which the fictional family encounters’ said Kate.

    Following the role play, Sian Bushell will present a session on identifying the points of contention, how to communicate with family members and the various pitfalls of different stages of the succession process. Descended from a long line of West Wales farmers, Sian was a partner and then director...
  10. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    Nov 16, 2014

    Day 49 – Biodynamic cattle

    by David Walston

    I really needed a helicopter today, it was a long drive for a short distance. I'm very jealous that these guys can grow such a wide variety of fruits in their garden: apples, apricots, figs, oranges, lemons, limes, quince, mulberries, plums... I guess there are not many climates that would support all of them.

    This was another last minute Nuffield phone call, but there was a double chance of success as both people living in the house are past scholars: Cathy Harvey is a trained vet, and Dave come from a farming family. They are farming 2,000ha of non-wetting sandy soils, which supports a herd of purebred Angus which they breed and take all the way to finishing, and also a 250 cow dairy.

    A flood irrigated lucerne paddock, before and after grazing by the dairy herd

    Having spent the first part of his farming career as a high input/high output farmer, Dave tried out some biological farming techniques, and found they worked pretty well. After a few years of doing that, they discovered a demand for Biodynamic milk had opened up near by. The move from biological to certified Organic, and from...