Christopher Padfield - Post Formal Education - nurturing and growing talent?
I live on work on a 4th generation family farm on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border. It is a mixed farm consisting of a Beef fattening joint venture and growing combinable crops. We have been direct drilling all crops including maize for the last decade. The farm is entered into an HLS scheme which is central to our focus on creating wildlife habitat around the enterprise. We also run some stubble to stubble contracting.
After working abroad in Ghana, Guinea Bissau and France, I worked for a local agricultural college mainly assessing NVQ qualifications. I also achieved qualifications in Internal and External Verification and a PGCE (adult education). I then set up a small training company where we offer training services, mainly LANTRA and City and Guilds qualifications, aimed at the land-based skills sector.
When not working, I love riding motorbikes and drinking whisky. Not a great combination though a recent biking trip to Islay managed to get the best of both worlds.
I would like to thank all those supporting my Nuffield Scholarship, not least the Central Region Farmers Trust for their sponsorship, and my wife and parents for their support and backing.
Soils and Organic Matter with Victor Leforestier
Victor, a 2015 Nuffield Scholar from France, kindly agreed to arrange a couple of farm visits in the Normandy area. Farmers who are interested in no-till conservation agriculture and cover cropping in France have set up an organisation called BASE, the concept and name has also been replicated in the UK and I have been a member. It is good to see farmers getting together to learn from each other without requiring government intervention or funding. Antoine Chedru farms 170 ha growing sugar beet, maize, linseed and wheat. The soil is very light and sandy and very prone to capping. Antoine had designed and built his own drill which was very well thought through. To increase OM from levels of around 1.8% he was collecting wood brash, chipping it and spreading it on the fields. It was also interesting to see fields planted to wheat with 5 different varieties mixed together in an attempt to reduce the challenges of rusts etc. Antoine was also making a nettle tea to reduce the usage of fungicides on linseed production. Here linseed (flax) is grown for the straw to make flax and the oilseed is irrelevant. Nitrogen use was low as the flax was prone to lodging and then harvesting and rolling into bales becomes more challenging. The flax can be stored for up to 18 months before it is processed.
At Victor`s parents farm the 120 ha has a soil depth varing from 1 to 7 metres, and again is prone to capping. Crops grown included sugar beet, potatoes, wheat and osr. The sugar beet and potato crops can cause major soil compaction issues. The farm has worked hard to retain soil structure and OM.
One experiment which was being tried was mixing peas into the potato rows. It is debatable if any nitrogen from the peas will benefit the current crop but it may have subsequents benefits. They were using drip irrigation to water the potatoes. Sudden rain outbursts can cause problems so they had created scallops between the rows to prevent water/soil running down the slopes.
In terms of staff training, it was generally felt that should a topic warrant training then you would approach the chambre of agriculture to set this up, provided sufficient numbers of people could be encouraged to go.