Two new farmers have joined AHDB’s Strategic Cereal Farm network in an expansion of the Farm Excellence programme to both the South and North of England.
Launching in June 2021, David Miller from Hampshire has been selected as the host of the new Strategic Cereal Farm South, which will become AHDB’s fourth Strategic Cereal Farm. Joining David is David Blacker from York, who will host Strategic Cereal Farm North when it launches in 2022.
Funded by AHDB and other stakeholders, Strategic Cereal Farms test cutting-edge research and innovations. During the six-year programme, they host a structured combination of short and long-term field and farm-scale demonstrations, with one or two on-farm meetings per year.
Located near Basingstoke, Hampshire, David Miller’s farm covers 700 hectares with 670 hectares of combinable crops. Currently 10 years into the use of regenerative agriculture practices as farm manager for Wheatsheaf Farming Company, David is looking to continue such work as a Strategic Farm host and reduce inputs. He said: “We are very pleased to have been chosen as the next AHDB Strategic Cereal Farm.
“Our vision for the next six years is to trial and prove various scenarios to ease the journey into regenerative agriculture. We aim to look at ways of quantifying the results of our actions in growing crops in a more biological way with less reliance on chemicals and inorganic fertilisers. The end result will, hopefully, give a reliable path of principles for others to follow.”
As host of Strategic Cereal Farm North, York-based David Blacker returns to AHDB’s Farm Excellence network, having previously spent three years as a Monitor Farm host. During that time he reduced his business spending by more than £50,000 per year and is now looking forward to further work as a Strategic Farm host: “I am delighted to be contributing to the Strategic Farm network.
“Farming is such a big topic covering a huge range of areas, and the more I know, the more I appreciate how much I don’t know. The way I farm has evolved over the years, bringing success and some failures along the way. The areas I will look at are varied, some soil-based, some production, and some financial focused areas – hopefully filling some knowledge gaps.”
Additionally, Strategic Cereal Farm West, which launched in June 2018, will finish later this year with host farmer Rob Fox moving on to pastures new through an exciting job opportunity in Hertfordshire. During his three years as a Strategic Farm host, Rob has tested a range of research outputs, including the AHDB BBRO soil health scorecard which has helped Rob evaluate the impact of cultivation systems on soil health and crop roots.
He has also carried out trials to look at cultivations, summer catch crops, managed lower inputs, and pests and natural enemies. This work all took place alongside navigating a challenging growing season for harvest 2020, in which difficult autumn conditions resulted in much of the farm being drilled in the spring.
Richard Meredith, AHDB Head of Arable Knowledge Exchange, said: “It is great to welcome two new Strategic Farms to the Farm Excellence network.
“There is very little doubt that we are facing a period of unprecedented change for our industry, and there will be challenges ahead as growers strive for excellence. In light of these challenges, we are continually proud of the impact of AHDB Strategic Farms in helping growers to achieve this, and we look forward to working with our two new Strategic Cereal Farm hosts in the coming years.
“We would also like to thank Rob Fox for his work as a Strategic Farm host over the past three years, and during his time as Monitor Farm host. He has been a valuable asset to our Farm Excellence programme and we look forward to working with him again in the future in his new role.”