Cross visit to UK- Arable crops

7-9 November 2022

From the 7th to the 9th of November took place the third IPMWORKS cross visit, hosted by the , facilitated by MaAndrew Christie (JHI).

Returning the hospitality afforded to us from our visit in the summer, we hosted members of Irish hub to show off the best that Scotland had to offer in a windswept and rainy November!
Based on highlighted interests in cover/companion cropping and conservation agriculture systems, it is with help from colleagues and host farmers that we were able to offer some interesting farm visits showing examples of innovative IPM solutions

First stop, Durie farm in Fife

Looking at a ‘mature’ regenerative system practised for over 20 years and the importance, and successes, relating to growing cover crops, inclusion of spring cropping and cereal/legume and brassica/legume intercropping within a low input no-till arable rotation alongside some joint trials work with JHI described by Adrian Newton.

Photo: Cover crop mix radish, linseed, oat and bean

Second stop, Balruddery farm of the James Hutton Insitute

It gave an insight into trials work currently being conducted on-farm with talks from Cathy Hawes (JHI) on the Centre for Sustainable Cropping platform comparing a long-term conventional system against an integrated regenerative/conservation agriculture approach in 6 different crops, Dave Roberts (JHI) and Alan Johnson (Kings Crops) presented an ongoing trial looking at Cover Crop effect on FLN populations and Cristina McBride (JHI) showed us some science in action looking at the way in which cover crops affect run-off and soil percolation as the basis for her PhD…and we also had an example of the narrow weather windows Scottish farmers contend with, as after a bright start, the rain was pouring halfway through the morning!

Once everyone dried out over lunch, this was followed by an introduction to JHI Mylnefield farm from Head of Farms, Euan Caldwell and a trailer tour of the site, with time squeezed in between for some activity using the IPMWORKS survey dashboard with Graham Begg and Susan Verrall and finished off with a guided tour of the futuristic Intelligent Growth Solutions vertical growth facility on site.

Final stop, Loanfolds Farm in Perthshire

Oilseed rape companion cropped with Egyptian clover ans buckwheat

We had a field walk through our WOSR companion crop establishment in-field comparison (OSR only establishment method vs buckwheat/clover companion) and provided an overview of some preliminary results and a look at the economic benefits of this IPM technique to conclude the cross visit.

The Irish point of view of the cross visit:

Getting to see other IPM strategies
We got to see how their Scottish counterparts were integrating IPM on their farms using cover cropping as a tool for weed control and to improve soil structure, influencing the soil microbiome, trapping nutrients, protecting the soil while also reducing costs associated with conventional tillage. We visited two excellent farms who were demonstrating how they integrated cover crops on their farms in conjunction with reduced cultivation techniques. There was a lot of sharing of information between the different hub members and plenty of advice from both sides of the Irish Sea. While the farms may be located in different regions, many of the same issues are common to both countries such as grass weed control, high rainfall and establishment limitations with reduced cultivation systems.

Research perspective
The Irish hub members were very interested in the area of sustainability and the ongoing research in the James Hutton centre. The Centre for Sustainable Cropping had just finished its second six-year rotation and there was some good information and the ongoing work coming from the platform. The ongoing research into the effect of cover crops on FLN is very interesting in a broader sense as nematodes can also affect cereal crops and not just potatoes. The findings that cultivations do indeed have an effect on the microbiome species present in the soil also made for interesting conversation. The tour of the vertical farming facility rounded off a very interesting day at James Hutton with a view into the future of farming system and a system that may play a greater role in the years to come.

Thank you!
Special thanks to Andrew Christie who put together a very interesting agenda for the visit and it is one that will be remembered by the hub members for a long time.