Spring has almost sprung! Here’s what we’ve been up to on the farm
After what has felt like a very long, cold winter with weather from one extreme to the next, it is starting to feel like spring is just around the corner! It has been another very busy month on the farm, here’s a brief round up for you.
We are thrilled to announce this month that we won Cereal Grower of the Year at the National Arable & Grassland Awards 2023. This is another huge achievement for Nonington Farms, on the back of Arable Farmer of the year, and one which the whole team is justly proud of. Recognition like this really helps us to drive further with our sustainable farming approach. The judges particularly liked that we are putting healthy soils and the environment first, and they also commended us on our economic business model and how we work with nature to achieve this.
Aside from award ceremonies, we have had our annual Leaf Marquee and Red Tractor Audit. Passing this, which we did with flying colours and no conformities to amend, entitles us to be carry the LEAF Marque for another year, as well as the Red Tractor logo on everything that we grow on the farm.
Out on the farm, we have been trialling our new regime of integrating livestock on the arable rotation. With the help of some local sheep from a neighbouring farmer, we have been grazing some of our winter wheat crops. By moving them regularly, sometimes every day, the sheep graze all the outer leaves of the wheat, which is usually where the disease is, and encourages the plant to tiller again. These healthy new leaves make the plant more vigorous and therefore less susceptible to fungal diseases. The additional bonus of some fertiliser from the sheep further helps the soil health, and reduces the need for fungicide.
Along with the sheep, we have also been strip grazing other fields with the help of Oink and Udder’s rare breed native cows. Having grazed off the cover crops, which have now been drilled with spring crops, the herd have moved on different pastures to help in assisting opening up the sward to help species such as yellow rattle and other native flowers, which would otherwise be overtaken by grasses.
We have had the results from our winter bird survey, thanks to our Peter and Sarah’s efforts. Their findings in three distinct areas of the farm have been very promising, with 6 different red listed bids being recorded. These results were submitted to the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. We are particularly pleased with our numbers of skylarks, linnets and yellowhammers. This shows how important the utilisation of AB9 (Winter bird food) is as a good source of food to bridge the hunger gap over the winter, along with supplementary feeding, which continues into early Spring.
In February, we finished our tree planting for the winter; hazel which we use for hedge laying has been coppiced, and we have planted oak, beech and sweet chestnut in the woods in order to give longevity and species diversity to the woodland. The new trees can now (hopefully) establish as the canopy has been opened up.
Alongside the spring crops being drilled and established, we have also been creating new habitats under our CSS options, which include new hedges and wildflower plots, new fencing and protecting laid hedges.