By Tim Parton, Farmer at Brewood Park Farm and founding member of the Green Farm Collective
With the weather extremes we had to endure this year, biology cannot always give the plant what it requires, which is where I, as a farmer, must step in to keep the plant healthy and free from disease. Farming in this way then allows me to be ‘fungicides free’ with no yield loss; hopefully just yield gains in the form of tonnage from the crop and hopefully carbon to sell.
I managed to grow an 8 tonne/ha crop of wheat on one of my lightest fields in a very testing year, with just 60kg N/ha and no fungicides. This achievement has a positive impact on my farm, and the crop’s, carbon footprints. Crop output and carbon sales provide our farm two income streams which, in my view, has to be an intelligent approach to the farming of the future - using science to make informed decisions within the farming year.
On our farm this year - Brewood Park Farm - one of my trials was to try and feed the plant through the leaf only. People may ask, is this possible? Yes, I believe it is. It turned out to be one of the most testing Spring growing seasons that I have ever experienced, with very dry and cold conditions, putting plants under enormous stress which can lead to disease pressure. May followed on to be very wet, finally warming up to allow crops to grow.
This is really the hardest part when feeding through the leaf; being able to keep up with crop demand for nutrients. Thus, I applied 20kg N/ha as soil applied fertiliser to keep up with demand. This also helped to stimulate soil Nitrogen fixing bacteria - the air is 78% nitrogen – so why not find a way use it? While applying Nitrogen through the leaf I was also able to keep the plant balanced with any other nutrient through sap testing. This lets me monitor the plant and jump in with nutrition when needed.
We now have all the knowledge to be able to farm in a regenerative way; to keep producing food for a growing population, in addition to healing and regenerating the planet in which we live - there is no planet B!
See from the picture how the field progressed through the season to harvest, producing the 8 tonne/ha yield average, with heaver parts of the field up to 9.5tonne/ha.