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Life as a farmer: Q&A with James Price - Crop Focus TV: Episode 3

We hope you enjoy the third edition of CropFocusTV. We certainly had an interesting day with James Price. Watch out for the next edition coming your way – subscribe to our channel on YouTube for all our latest video content.

If you have any questions, please contact your local CTM or Tweet @Bayer4CropsUK.

Video Transcript

BEN: Hello and welcome to the third edition of Bayer’s CropFocus TV.

JON: We’re here just North of Oxford in Woodstock to see James Price, looking at his management strategies and any approaches he’s taking going forwards. Let’s go and see James.

BEN: So James, as a bit of an introduction can you tell me a bit about yourself and a bit about the farm?

JAMES: Yeah of course Ben so my name’s James Price, you’re here on Perdiswell Farm which is just outside Woodstock in Oxfordshire. We’re a 1600 acre all-arable conventional farm if you like. We grow wheat, barley, oil seed rape and beans, spring, winter beans and spring barley. We’re on thin Cotswold brash soil here, some slightly heavier ground on our contract farm and average yield on wheat, about eight and a half now over a five year average so we’re not too bad now.

BEN: So tell me a bit about yourself, how long have you been farming here?

JAMES: So I came back from college 19 years ago and really I didn’t take over the reins of the farm until about 15 years ago I suppose. I’ve been very very fortunate, my father’s given me leave to get on with it which a lot of people don’t have. So I’ve made my own mistakes. I’ve had my own successes as well which is fantastic and, yeah I love it.

BEN: And what do you enjoy most about farming in the environment around this part of the world?

JAMES: I think it’s the changes it’s the fact that you’re doing something different every day and the fact that you get to see, you create a crop if you like. So, you go out you plant the seed and you watch it come up, you nurture it, grow it, you harvest it. So it’s the fact that it’s a very fulfilling job in that respect. There is the other side to it as well of course which is you have pests and disease and drought where you see all the hard work undone but you take the rough with the smooth.

JON: So here we are, field of mid-October drilled Skyfall. What are you looking at at this stage James in terms of really pushing your yield?

JAMES: So this time of year you know everything we’re doing around this crop is regarding nutrition and then obviously keeping it green for as long as possible to try and make the most of the available sunshine.

JON: So in terms of nutrition, is there anything in particular that you’re focusing on on the land you’ve got here?

JAMES: Absolutely, obviously this is milling wheat, we’re also on thin, brashy soil so we tend to run out of moisture, so what we tend to try and do is keep a little and often approach to the crop as we go through the season so we put regular doses of nitrogen on, four splits as a rule on milling wheat but then the most important one for us is then going through at the final stage, so growth stage 59, where we go through with solid fertiliser late to get our protein. We then try and maximise the potential of the crop to achieve milling spec across the whole tonnage.

JON: So in this crop of Skyfall, anthers just emerging. What are your thoughts in terms of your T3 programmes? What sort of angles are you looking at for your T3s?

JAMES: So for our T3s, the priority for us is milling wheat, obviously Fusarium and ear diseases so we want to try to keep those ears as clean as possible. If there’s any secondary effect on greening, that’s great. You know, that might gain us a little bit more towards harvest but it all very much depends on the season.

JON: And what we’ve seen over a couple trials now is benefits of maximising green leaf area and maximising the longevity of that green leaf to build yield. Do you see that on this farm?

JAMES: Yeah, I mean I’d love to say that you know, extending the green leaf area, keeping it greener for longer makes a big difference to us but we don’t tend to senesce, we tend to just die off because we drought out so we haven’t seen that sort of effect on our farm as much as I’d love to say we had.

BEN: So James we’re here, moved into spring barley now to discuss its position within the rotation, why obviously it fits there and obviously for you I guess that’s mainly around grass-weed control?

JAMES: Yeah absolutely it’s something that we’ve been doing for a number of years and perhaps more latterly it’s become much more relevant as grass-weed control for us rather than in the early days it was just another crop in the rotation but actually as we’ve gone on, a. it’s helping us to control black-grass but b. it’s proved that actually it has helped us in the past as well as we don’t have a particular black-grass problem on this farm.

BEN: So has it increased over the last few years as a percentage of your acreage? With spring barley or spring cropping in general to assist with the grass-weed problem?

JAMES: No not particularly, because we’ve managed it over so many years, we’ve kept the area about the same and it just rotates around the farm so it goes up and down every year but not in contrast to, or not because of any particular grass-weed problem. On the contract farm we do, where we have a major problem, then yes spring barley has a. it would come into rotation and b. its area has increased as well.

BEN: And what does it allow you to come into as the next crop? Is it always ahead of anything in particular?

JAMES: Yes for us we always have spring barley before oilseed rape which yes I appreciate is a little bit tight at harvest but we direct drill the rape so that means at least we’re not having to mess around with cultivations.

BEN: Do you find that allows the rape to be much more of a cleaning crop than perhaps some others would do, who do still struggle with black-grass control in rape, would be as useful as other chemistries?

JAMES: Yes because you’ve got a springcrop into a rape crop so you’ve almost got two breaks from your classic winter cereal so there’s no doubt it helps.

BEN: And is this your only spring crop on the farm or do you dabble in other bits as well?

JAMES: No, for my sins, I grow spring beans as well. I’m still yet to determine why. Perhaps the only reason in fairness that we stick with green beans is because of the break in rotation but principally because we have sheep grazing before it so there’s other things that go on within that year of growing so it fits.

BEN: It fits in that, what you’re require it to do.

JON: So here we are James, looking at your N-Sensor, what’s this really brought you on-farm in terms of being able to measure, in terms of being able to adopt your management practice?

JAMES: So the N-Sensor we’ve been using for a number of years now and fundamentally it gives us the opportunity to almost micro-manage different areas of the field. For us it’s about building yield, sustaining yield and then promoting quality. That’s the three stages if you like of using the N-Sensor when we use it. For us milling wheat it’s very much about hitting that protein, hitting that quality and making sure that we have a saleable product at the end of the year.

JON: So when you go through the crop with your N-Sensor how many times are you going through it, what are you actually measuring and what are you changing on the back of that?

JAMES: So, when we use the N-Sensor we look at two things basically which is crop density and crop colour. So we’ll go through the crop four times with nitrogen, the first time is very much about building yield potential, so you know bringing those backward areas forwards. Then the two main doses we do is all about sustaining that yield and then finally when we go through when it’s late flowering for the wheat it’s all about maximising protein so we put more fertiliser on the thicker, greener areas of the field because we know they’ll yield more so we’ll get protein dilution so we put a little bit more fertiliser on those to even the crop out.

JON: So you’re making small changes, you’re adapting very small things to try and give a small marginal gain really to the crop and maximising productivity through that approach?

JAMES: Absolutely marginal gains, you know, it’s very much a word of the times at the moment and for us it’s making the most of what we’ve got. We have field of wheat what can we do extra to that to make it slightly higher yielding and more consistent and better quality.

JON: Fantastic, very interesting thank you.

JON: So James, Brexit. Some people are absolutely petrified I think it’s fair to say, other people see it as a real opportunity and an opportunity to change things on-farm. What are your views in the next five to ten years and how that may impact on where you’re going?

JAMES: So Brexit for us we’re taking purely as an opportunity. I think that’s the only way you can view it. There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s happening now. I think it’s an opportunity for the industry to change as well. There’s going to be people farming out there that perhaps shouldn’t be or are only farming for the subsidies and if they’ve gone then it might shake everything up a little bit. Equally if it means that we become unprofitable and it doesn’t work for us then we’ll have to stop farming as well.

BEN: So James, aside from the cropping on the farm, obviously you’re doing other bits for biodiversity can you talk a little bit more about that?

JAMES: Absolutely yeah and we’re stood in an area where we’ve planted some trees this time, there’s some volunteer Phacelia here. This bit will be topped in time but we’ve done a number of things in the last fifteen years whether it be grass margins round the fields, planting belts of trees, gapping up the hedges. We’ve been in various stewardship schemes and we’ve massively changed how the farm works with the environment and with nature. And we’re seeing a return of birds, we’re seeing English partridge we’ve got no end of Skylarks around, we’re seeing the benefits to what we’ve done as well.

BEN: And I meant to say this is just volunteer phacelia obviously here but the number of bees that are in it and the noise that’s coming off it is pretty phenomenal standing right next to it so I think that’s a testament to some of the stuff you have done here.

JAMES: Yeah and it’s great and we’ll continue to do so going forwards because you know, I can grow stuff and I can grow phacelia and it’s good for wildlife so let’s grow it.

BEN: And there’s a good chance perhaps if there is any payment it may well be where it’s coming from anyway so…

JAMES: Yeah that’s right.

BEN: Excellent, thank you.

JON: So that’s a wrap from James at Perdiswell for this episode of CropFocus TV. Great to hear him talk about sustainability, his cropping and where he sees the opportunities for the business in the future.

BEN: Absolutely and how he’s looking to future-proof himself against the uncertainty of Brexit.