Friday, 26 June 2015

Events kick-off with evening farm walk

Last evening we welcomed a great group of potato enthusiasts to the site for our first event - an evening farm walk.

Philip Burgess, AHDB Potatoes Head of Knowledge Transfer and Communications welcomed the turnout of growers and agronomists and explained the concept of a Strategic Potato Farm being to take the large programme of research funded by levy payers and bring it out into the open. 
James Daw, the farm's host was on hand, along with Dr Mark Stalham and Simon Smart of NIAB-CUF.

Particularly impressive was an area of the crop that had been worked with various tramline machinery to prevent run off. 

During the farm walk the irrigator was applying 25 mm of irrigation to the treated crop.

If any groups want to visit the demonstrations - please get in touch to arrange a visit.

And to top off a great day - I also took receipt of my FACTS certificate! Newly qualified! 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Irrigation scheduling on site

We all recognise the importance of water and its value as a resource. With demand for water increasing, there is a need to justify applications and demonstrate efficient use, from the point of environmental protection, and to meet crop protocol requirements. 

Click here to stay up to date with my colleague Jenny’s water related activity including the recently published early-season irrigation guide

On site, James will be irrigating the crop with a boom irrigator using water supplied from his recently installed reservoir. The boom is on site now and ready to go. But with 27mm of rain at the weekend, it’s still on standby.

 Irrigation which is to be applied to the site is being scheduled using the NIAB-CUF Irrigation Model. Following set up, this uses weekly rainfall data collected from the on-site weather station, and the CanopyCheck app which measures crop ground cover. For more information on the NIAB-CUF tools visit:  

As well as having the irrigation scheduled, there is also to be a deliberately ‘droughted’ area which will demonstrate the effect of missing irrigation at crucial stages.

Don’t forget you can register here to visit the SPot Farm in the coming weeks:

Friday, 5 June 2015

Your chance to explore the SPot Farm

With emergence afoot, its time I share with you some of our event plans for the summer at the SPot Farm.

WHERE: W B Daw & Son; Bellamour Lane, Colton, Rugeley, Staffs, WS15 3JR


Thursday 23 July 2015: Main Open Day, 9.30-3.30pm

If you would like to join us, please register online by clicking on either of the event links above or contact Miya Kotecha on 07792 209 919. 

And here are my top 10 reasons as to why you should join us: 
  • See the findings of independent and rigorous trials being put into practice and how the latest techniques can be implemented on your own farm
  • You’ve read this blog and want to see more
  • Examine the effect of adjusting destoning, bedforming and bedtilling operations on yields, work rates and costs
  • Challenge Mark Stalham of NIAB CUF and other experts involved in our recent research
  • Network and debate with likeminded growers
  • See James Daw’s use of precision in potatoes – from drones, soil scanning and variable rate applications to yield mapping
  • View work underway looking at how to reduce in-field greening & manage crop variability
  • Compare tramline machinery being used to reduce run-off and explore irrigation scheduling tools
  • Explore the use of weather stations and soil moisture probe data in potato production
  • See how best to achieve payback on R&D levy spend for your business

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Trialing tramline machinery

Water retention and minimising run-off are considerable soil and water management challenges for agriculture, let alone potatoes, to meet. You’ll be all too aware of the benefits, not just from an environmental perspective and mitigating potential negative impacts, but from the point of preserving an asset and achieving high yielding and quality tubers. Good soil structure free of compaction is fundamental – for drainage and root growth, efficient nutrient use and an adequate oxygen supply, all needed for crops to perform at their best.

Previously, MOPSII, a DEFRA funded project led by ADAS and supported by AHDB Potatoes, looked at mitigating options for phosphorous and sediment losses. And this included studies of various tramline soil management treatments including tines and tied ridges. Results showed there to be practical, cost-effective methods to reduce shallow compaction, run-off, and erosion and diffuse pollution risk. All without impacting yield.

It’s clear that there is still room for improvement in potato production, in terms of both understanding and in-field practice. Effective soil management remains a key activity area today for AHDB Potatoes. Click here to visit our soils homepage for access to recent and on-going research projects as well as our latest management guides and news.

Sandy loams and loams have a potentially well-balanced capacity to retain water, form a stable structure, provide adequate aeration, and possess a suitable thermal regime. Soils that are further away from these soils types are likely to need greater amounts of careful management to maintain the optimal sustainable soil management needed for quality production. The more sandy or gravelly soils more drought prone, while more silty and clayey soils with a tendency to compact and crust, and a higher risk of both drainage impedance and water erosion. At the SPot Farm this season, we’re sited on a sandy clay loam soil - a medium soil with a clay content between 19-35%. Not dissimilar to other soils this type this has the potential for vulnerability to drainage and structural problems.

Three bits of still novel kit are being trialed this season at the SPot Farm on an area of sloped ground. Below are a few picture from James of the machinery in use on what was still some moist ground below the surface.

Richard Lapage's Wonder Wheel in action.

Briggs Tied Ridger - with paddle wheels to form and press consistently sized and spaced dams. More info available at: 

Aqua Agronomy Creyke The Wheel Tracker Roller - forming reservoirs to hold surface water with fissures to help movement through the soil and tines to channel into the adjoining crop. More info available at: 

It would be great to hear of your own experiences and interest in these bits of kit or similar – feel free to comment below. And we will keep an eye on the ridges as we also watch the weather station