Farm supervisor Simon Day is taking massive strides in rising potatoes extra sustainably and slicing their carbon footprint by widening his rotation, lowering expensive cultivations and introducing cowl crops so as to add natural matter.
He has stretched his rotation for rising potatoes on his fertile silt soils at Value Farms, Holbeach, south-eastern Lincolnshire, to one-in-eight years. He has additionally reduce out ploughing and is trialling the perfect cowl crops to develop earlier than spuds.
He’s now seeing his yields ticking up and is creating a greater soil construction that’s much less more likely to cap in a really dry spring.
See additionally: The right way to develop potatoes utilizing minimal tillage
As well as, potato cyst nematode (PCN) numbers are falling, which can please his retail clients resembling Marks and Spencer, that are desirous to see fewer chemical compounds used to develop potatoes.
Farm information: Value Farms, Holbeach, Lincolnshire
- Farms 2,600ha of Grade 1 fertile silt soils
- Grows winter wheat, potatoes, sugar beet, vining peas, maize and let land for vegetable and salads
- Potatoes – 350ha – varieties Maris Piper, Melody, Marfona, Desiree and Nectar
“The enterprise has at all times been environmentally targeted and we’re aiming to remain one step forward on our journey to sustainable farming,” he tells Farmers.
Management nematode numbers
Rising 250ha of potatoes on Grade 1 deep silt land destined for the standard pre-pack market, the farm made the choice about 5 years in the past to widen the rotation and reduce out late-lifting varieties resembling Cara to begin stamping down on nematode numbers.
The transfer has culminating within the farm being one among Marks and Spencer’s 5 innovation vegetable rising farms, with the retailer funding the Meals and Setting Analysis Company (Fera) to undertake trials on nematode numbers, with the final word intention of lowering chemical use.
The transfer to widen the rotation from one in six years beforehand has helped to manage nematodes, with nematicides now solely getting used on 60-70% of the potato land, and pre-pack yields growing to 55t/ha from the low 50s beforehand.
The following transfer was to scale back cultivation prices by abandoning ploughing and repeated passes of a time-consuming energy harrow, slicing equipment put on and tear, and bettering soil construction with less-intensive cultivations.
Following vining peas
Potatoes often observe vining peas, so after the viners have left the sphere in the summertime there’s a cultivation with a Sumo Trio subsoiler-disc-packer-roller mixture, with a canopy crop often sown from the cultivator.
Then, within the spring, there’s a single cross of a Prime-Down disc-tine-leveller-roller mixture, after which they go in with a mixture rotavator-planter.
Mr Day factors out that with the transfer away from ploughing to non-inversion mixing of the soil there may be extra pea haulm within the potato ridge at planting, which helps to keep away from floor capping, whereas additionally serving to so as to add natural matter to his historically low natural matter soils.
The farm has experimented with biofumigant cowl crops forward of potatoes, however these crops took a variety of administration, as they want mowing, then discing and ploughing in. It was additionally tough to quantify the results utilizing these cowl crops – costing £80/ha – had on nematode numbers.
Mr Day has tried a extra conventional cowl crop mixture of vetch, phacelia and radish, however on his very fertile land the duvet crop grew as much as two metres tall after peas and was tough to chop and handle. Subsequently he’ll strive one other combine this autumn.
“We’re on a studying curve with cowl crops. What we would like is sweet floor cowl, however much less administration,” he says.
Nitrogen fertilise use
The hope is that utilizing cowl crops will ultimately permit them to scale back nitrogen charges on the potatoes by about 35kg/ha from the present stage of 200-250kg/ha.
Mr Day is already trimming nitrogen purposes on the soil and making use of 60-70kg/ha of the full dose as a foliar therapy.
The farm is rising Maris Piper and Melody varieties for Marks and Spencer, and can be rising Marfona, Desiree and Nectar. Yields of Nectar have been as much as 80t/ha in an excellent yr.
Marks and Spencer’s “Farming with Nature” marketing campaign is initially vegetable and livestock manufacturing and is geared toward lowering greenhouse gases, which the farm is doing by lowering its cultivations, utilizing nitrogen extra effectively and growing biodiversity. The corporate has has introduced Fera in to evaluate the scenario.
Bex Lawson, senior plant nematologist at Fera, is nematode populations on the farm, as this may give a sign of biodiversity and the way properly the farm is doing happening the sustainability route.
“Nematode populations are the perfect bioindicator of soil well being, whereas the organic state of nematode populations may also help with nitrogen effectivity,” she says.
With the banning of Vydate (oxamyl) in January 2021, the one two nematicides accessible to potato growers are Nemathorin (fosthiazate) and Velum Prime (fluopyram), however these have met with a blended response from the large retailers.
There are two species of PCN – Globodera rostochiensis and Globodera pallida – and though Maris Piper is proof against rostochiensis, it’s inclined to pallida. Most PCN populations on the Lincolnshire farm are pallida.
Mr Day says he makes use of Nemathorin on the farm as granules at potato planting, however he has not tried the liquid formulation of Velum.
Mrs Lawson says with an excellent steadiness of nematodes and good soil well being there could also be much less want for a nematicide. “There could possibly be a future consequence the place the soil heath improves and the nematode steadiness is sweet, after which we would have the ability to do with out a nematicide,” she says.
She factors out that they’ve seen enhancements in range from autumn 2021 by way of to spring 2022, largely from using cowl crops and lowered cultivations.
Mr Day hopes the Fera analysis will conclude that the farm has been transferring in the best course, and provides pointers for attaining a extra sustainable future.
“We wish to be within the scenario the place, if Nemathorin disappeared tomorrow, we’d nonetheless have the ability to develop potatoes,” he says.