First chance to visit Scotland’s strategic grain farm

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Scotland’s strategic grain farm will open its doors to visitors for the first time since the project began two years ago.

On Wednesday 29th June there will be a tour of the trial sites at Treaton Farm, Fife KY7 6LJ, part of Balbirnie Home Farms, Fife, host of the AHDB research programme.

Host David Aglen, Head of Farms at Balbirnie, explained: “We joined the Strategic Farm network shortly before the pandemic hit so we could only use the virtual world to showcase the farm and our goals of research. This culminated in a series of films and webinars to showcase what we’ve done and report on the results of early trials.

“We look forward to finally being able to show people the test sites in person and to discuss directly with our peers what we have learned from the work that has been done so far and what is yet to come.”

The open house begins at 1pm with an introduction by Fiona Geary, AHDB Knowledge Transfer Manager. She said: “Our strategic grain farms put cutting-edge research and innovation into practice on commercial farms across the UK. The open day at Balbirnie Home Farms gives us the opportunity to give an overview of the trials being carried out in Scotland alongside the AHDB’s network of strategic grain farms in the east, west and south of England and I hope that many of our Grains and Oilseeds Levy payers in Scotland will be able to attend.

Mr Aglen will provide an overview of the farm, including its constraints and objectives, and explain its role in conducting a series of trials under Scottish growing conditions that will help develop an environmental and economic resilience strategy . It is hoped that sharing farm findings will give other farmers the confidence to make decisions using similar approaches, and data to determine viable options and inform their decisions.

Connect for Impact Manager at SRUC, Fiona Burnett, has worked closely with Mr Aglen and AHDB on the trial program and will discuss the activity that has taken place as well as preliminary results. This will cover:

  • Use of cover crops before no-till spring barley, comparison of different control methods. The assessments cover soil, biodiversity and the development of spring barley crops;
  • Seeding dates for establishing direct seeded spring barley, measuring conditions such as soil moisture and temperature at different seeding dates;
  • Compare nitrogen application methods to improve nitrogen use efficiency;
  • Test a crop throughout the season and adjust nutrition accordingly to see if it improves crop health enough to resist pests/diseases in the absence of pesticides.

The afternoon will include a series of “how to” sessions led by guest experts and focused on each of the ongoing trials. These include a session looking at how to perform a Brix test as an indication of photosynthetic activity and how this result can be correlated to crop health; an overview of spring barley cover crop and planting date trials with a hands-on session on how to perform infiltration and soil structure assessments; and a session on how to conduct on-farm biodiversity assessments to contribute to an effective IRM strategy.

The open house will conclude with a panel discussion featuring the speakers involved in the trials and demonstrations and will bring together the environmental and IPM strategies tested on the farm; with a discussion on the future of agriculture, the environment and how to produce food more sustainably.

There will be plenty of time for questions. Everyone is then invited to stay and enjoy the on-site catering and catch up with all participants. Please register in advance at https://ahdb.org.uk/events/strategic-cereal-farm-scotland-open-day

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