Cheltenham Monitor Farm

Name:
Andrew Walters
Location:
Cheltenham
Farm sectors:
Cereals & Oilseeds
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About Cheltenham Monitor Farm

  • 450 ha arable rotation plus grass leys and permanent pasture
  • Predominantly heavy Evesham clay
  • All grain is processed and stored on farm with a 3,000-ton storage capacity
  • 37 ha of woodland and environmental areas but none currently in Countryside Stewardship
  • 140 head spring calving stabiliser suckler herd
  • Rotation includes milling wheat, winter barley, winter beans and oilseed rape. Spring cropping (linseed, canary seed and barley) has featured when autumn weather patterns have proved challenging 

Andrew Walters has been Farm and Estates Manager for eight years at Boddington Estates. His ambition is to increase margins by adopting a more regenerative and flexible approach where circumstances allow. This will include further trialling of livestock in the arable rotation and greater use of cover crops. Entering into environmental schemes where appropriate.  

Historically, the farm has used a min-till approach utilising the plough only for a complete reset in Blackgrass control. A new Horsch Avatar drill was purchased in autumn 2022 and a five-year machinery plan is in place with all machinery owned. All arable operations are carried out in-house.

Andrew is keen to make this three-year (2022–2025) stint as a Monitor Farm a two-way process of sharing experiences with visitors to the farm.

Past meetings and updates

For information on past meetings, click 'See more+' 

Rural funding pillars to help mitigate BPS reduction – 9 February 2023

An online event which involved discussion amongst Natural England, FWAG, Catchment Sensitive Farming and Severn Trent Water. The four groups reviewed the different options for drawing grant money on-farm.

View a recording of the meeting

All matters carbon – 10 January 2023

Becky Wilson from the Farm Carbon Toolkit shares and discusses results from a carbon audit carried out using their calculator at Boddington. The group then built strategies to increase sequestration and reduce emissions at the farm.

Cover crops – 13 December 2022

David Blacker (host of Strategic Cereal Farm North) spoke on his experience with cover crops, key messages included:

  • Work out what you want them to do  - e.g. nutrient scavenge or soil structure
  • If you have compaction, don’t rely on cover crop roots, use a subsoiler and then preserve with cover crops
  • Consider your other rotational crops in cover crop variety choice – avoid brassicas with OSR
  • Drill cover crops early or not at all, otherwise they cannot do their work
  • Don’t drill too deep
  • Broadcasting only works where larger sized seed mixes
  • Cover crops soak up nutrients – allow in fertiliser regime for following crop
  • Accept cover crops are not nutrient or necessarily financial wins, more environmental wins

Labour, Power and Machinery Review – 8 November 2022

With direct drilling featuring more and more at Boddington, the labour & machinery review conducted by Brown & Co. was most welcome. Points raised in response to cost breakdowns included:

  • The importance of keeping back up options in the shed when transitioning to a direct drill system.
  • Being willing to spend more on machinery to keep staff morale high and ensure retention.

Andrew’s update

Harvest 2022

Worries of poor grain fill due to low moisture leading up to harvest were put to bed with a pleasing harvest at Boddington Estate, with both winter barley and winter wheat (Crusoe) breaking farm yield records.

However, wheat (Zyatt) on Andrew’s heavier land and beans both suffered from the lack of available moisture throughout the summer taking significant hits in yield. For the beans this was worsened with unexpected presence of Black bean aphid. OSR yields were also slightly disappointing due to pest pressure with the crop being hit hard by CSFB.

Overall, harvest was exceptionally easy with the weather playing ball, no drying costs and no major machinery issues. Andrew keeps the wellbeing of his staff firmly in mind and adds they were pleased with the low number of unsociable working hours.

Post-harvest

The movement towards direct drilling sees cultivations being further reduced on farm. A low disturbance sub soiler was used only to reduce compaction in known areas.

65 ha of OSR was drilled using a one-pass system with the anticipation of rainfall. 4 ha of OSR was drilled with buckwheat as a companion crop using a Horsch Avatar. Unfortunately, the rain never arrived, this combined with flea beetle, slugs and pigeons some led to the decision to spray off the OSR and replace with barley, second wheat and beans. Andrew also felt the companion crop deprived the OSR of soil moisture it badly needed.

40 ha of cover crops have been established into OSR stubble. A mix of vetch, black oats and phacelia was drilled with the Avatar which have been slow to establish but Andrew hopes will improve drainage and soil structure.

All winter barley and all-bar-40 ha of winter wheat has also been direct drilled, Andrew reports that this is the lowest amount of grassweed pressure he’s experience at Boddington and all cereals have established very well. Acknowledging the accommodating conditions, Andrew wonders what contribution direct drilling has made to this.

Andrew is happy with the positive start to the new season and feels it has put him in good stead to continue the new practices into the future.

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Upcoming Meetings

4 June 2024, 10:30 AM - 4 June 2024, 2:00 PM

Boddington Estates, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 0TJ

Join us for a summer farm walk at Cheltenham Monitor Farm where we will catch up on what has been happening at the Monitor Farm since we last met.

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