Business & Investment

How Sussex farmers are preparing for the ELM scheme

By removing 16% of arable land from production and introducing means to improve the farm’s natural capital, West Sussex grower Mark Chandler can cultivate for an environmental land management (ELM) scheme. Preparing a business.

Instead of extending his existing High Level Stewardship (HLS) contract for another 12 months, he’s mid-tier countryside stewardship to fund landscape changes at Moore Farm near Petworth. I chose to use.

These include the creation of linear habitats by establishing field flowering zones to encourage beneficial insects, the use of overwintering cover crops prior to spring planting, and two years of legume fallow on unproductive ground. Includes maximization of the creation of wild bird covering areas.

reference: Why yield mapping is the first step in closing BPS income inequality

In the process, he had to move away from the idea of ​​50% winter wheat. But it also allows him to eliminate the use of pesticides, improve the soil, solve grass weed problems and confidently prepare to get rid of funds in the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). I am.

Farm facts

G Chandler Agriculture, Moore Farm, New Petworth, West Sussex

Mark Chandler © David Parker

  • Agriculture in partnership with his father Richard
  • 1,260ha of combinatorial planting
  • 60% are occupying the other 6 farms and 40% have contract farming contracts

Starting point

Looking at the text on the wall during the 2018 harvest, he and his father Richard realized that it was time to consider the changes.

The pest and weed problem was exacerbated by the loss of pesticides, extreme weather problems on the soil and the imminent financial impact of Brexit.

“At that stage, I asked myself if this was just a bad year or if I needed to change it,” Chandler recalls.

Analysis shows that his system had too many weaknesses, from cultivation strategies and four-course rotation to increased farm machinery costs, accumulated resistance, and exposure to climate change.

“Even our HLS scheme, which funded us, was blocking us by preventing us from doing anything different.”

However, a detailed analysis revealed that the important elements of natural capital, soil, air and water, are the ones he can influence. And these could be components of Defra’s proposed “public funds for public goods” system.

“It was clear that doing nothing was not an option. I had to find a solution.”

Strip in the field

In the fall of 2019, Chandler’s participation in the Sustainable Agriculture System Achievement (Assist) project includes the installation of an in-field flowering zone in a 10-hectare field of winter wheat to create a habitat for beneficial insects. It was.

Already difficult to control with the rapeseed resistant cabbage stalk flea beetle, he promised not to use pesticides and wanted to receive biological control from natural predators.

The strips were set 100 meters apart, occupying 6% of the field area and creating habitat in highly productive arable land rather than rounded edges.

“We quickly learned that it didn’t look wrong. The strips were located just outside the sprayer area, allowing us to handle fertilizer accurately and minimize spray drift. I did. “

Otherwise, the fall of 2019 was disastrous. The farm team managed to establish rapeseed, but the dampness hindered further autumn harvests. The decision to extend the HLS scheme had to be made by the end of the year.

“At that time, I looked at the assist project and realized that I could incorporate the concept and make other changes throughout the farm through the mid-tier scheme, but in July 2020 I refused to extend the HLS for mid-tier applications. , An 18-month funding gap remained in the business. “

Early indications

Harvest 2020 was the time for testing. Chandler adhered to his principles, fallowing 440 ha for a year and establishing a summer cover crop for soil health.

“Next, we were looking at ways to adapt them to crop rotations using two years of legume-based fallow. We need to consider such a system for five years, not just one. It was clear that there were. The hardest part of the two-year option was fitting them. “

At this point, he also lost one full-time staff as he purchased the Horsch Avatar direct drill and began a planned transition to reclaimed agriculture.

He admits he is wondering if the restructuring of the entire farm will be an economic disaster. “We thought it would ruin us. But if we parked everything, we wouldn’t spend anything on growing crops. A step back could enable farming without BPS. understood.”

He also received promising early signs – soil organic matter, earthworm numbers, and soil health (carbon dioxide bursts) are all increasing. The network of spider webs that appear in tearful mornings is evidence of the prosperity of insect life.

“We had to believe what we were doing. This is not chasing the grant, but doing it for the right reason. We are using chemistry as well. not.”

Task

problem Solution
Relieve pressure on black glass → Reduce soil turbulence / various rotations
Reduce fixed costs → There is little soil turbulence
Eliminate pesticides → Create a habitat for beneficial insects
Grow rapeseed → Expand the rotation
Rotation constraints / problems → Change the rotation
Make the middle layer / ELM scheme work → Prepare HLS
Improve soil health → Soil movement is low / covers crops
Make integrated pest management work → Use funds from the ELM scheme
Replace BPS → Reduction of fixed costs / ELM scheme
Improve or maintain yield → Feed the best bit
Improve or maintain margins → Reorganize fixed costs into agricultural land

How Mark Chandler makes it work

Chandler had four key priorities regarding the use of Midtia to achieve integrated pest management objectives and prepare for the ELM scheme.

  1. Use AB8 (flower-rich margins) throughout the farm to create linear habitats and establish 32 in-field strips (two-thirds completed and the rest will remain this year).
  2. Prior to spring planting, SW6 (overwintering cover crop) is used and the black grass is placed under control using a mixture of facelia / black oats that germinates the black grass.
  3. Use AB15 (a two-year legume fallow) as a low-risk rapeseed alternative to improve soil health and place it in the poorest lands.
  4. Establish an area of ​​AB9 (Wild Bird Cover) on unproductive ground to balance the plan.

Acid Test: Do You Pay It?

Mark Chandler has committed 440ha to a mid-tier contract. 52ha is a two-year legume fallow (pay £ 652 / ha), 57ha is a flower rim (pay £ 539 / ha), 10ha is winter bird food (£ 640 / ha), 101ha is winter cover. Crops (£ 114 / ha).

His annual funding through Midtier is £ 76,000, or £ 173 / ha. The changes made found that 16% of his arable land had been removed from conventional planting. This means that he is currently scrutinizing fixed cost reductions.

“To keep labor and machinery costs at £ 319 / hectare, we need to lower £ 50 / hectare. I think that’s achievable.”

Looking at the margins, he quickly points out that nothing approaches winter wheat in excess of £ 500 per hectare. However, Midtia’s option is second, coming in at around £ 400 per hectare, ahead of spring crops, winter barley and rapeseed.

Establishing in-field strips is costly and must be managed. Regular toppings are made in the first year, and cutting and packing are done in the second year.

“You need to pay as much attention to your habitat as you first grow wheat and adapt it to your agricultural system, both practically and physically.”

Winter cover crops, which do not affect acreage, increased his spring acreage by 60 pounds per hectare. “I would do them anyway, but now they are funded.”

Margin comparison at Moore Farm (£ / ha)

income Net profit margin
Winter wheat 1,350 513
Winter barley 1,080 279
Oil seed rapeseed 560 -205
Spring barley 756 140 *
soy 750 234 *
Spring beans 620 134 *
*Includes £ 114 SW6 payment per hectare

Mark Chandler said Farmers Weekly As part of AHDB’s Monitor Farm Monday series. He is the host of the Petworth Monitor Farm, a participant in the Assisted Research Project, and a member of the Rosa Valley Farmer Cluster Group.

How Sussex farmers are preparing for the ELM scheme

https:///business/payments-schemes/bps/how-a-sussex-arable-farmer-is-preparing-for-the-elm-scheme How Sussex farmers are preparing for the ELM scheme

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