Strategic Cereal Farm West

Rob Fox
Leamington Spa
Farm sectors:
Cereals & Oilseeds
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About Strategic Cereal Farm West

  • Strategic Cereal Farm since June 2018
  • 400 hectares of owned and rented land
  • Rotation includes winter wheat, winter barley winter oilseed rape, spring beans and spring barley
  • Monitor Farm from 2014-2017

Follow the Strategic Cereal Farm West with Rob Fox, if you are interested in:

  • Reducing inputs on-farm, whilst maintaining productivity and enhancing the environment
  • Harnessing the potential of varieties to alter fungicide strategies
  • Improving soil health and crop rooting using alternative cultivation systems, cover crops and catch crops
  • Boosting beneficials and natural enemies using flowering strips

You can follow the Strategic Cereal Farm West on Twitter by searching for #strategicfarm and @SquabRob

Mission and vision

The Strategic Cereal Farm West is a platform integrating research and practical farming that has the potential to change the way we farm for the better.

The Strategic Cereal Farm West demonstrates research outputs and communicates the full net-margin cost benefit analysis of demonstrations to help farmers make real differences to their businesses and continue to be proud of our industry and the jobs we do.

The vision of the Strategic Cereal Farm West is to independently test research outputs in an open, honest and transparent way. The project will help the UK agricultural industry, primarily farmers, to try out new strategies and develop practical solutions to address regional priorities and challenges.

Learn more about the trials and access previous event resources by clicking ‘+ See more’ button below




Key messages:

  • Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) and bulk density showed evidence of some compaction across the farm, with poorer structure observed on the heavier textured soils
  • Earthworm numbers were depleted in a number of fields

When the Strategic Cereal Farm started in 2018, soil properties were assessed on nine fields across the farm and evaluated using the soil health scorecard to create a baseline for the farm. These assessments included soil analysis, earthworm assessments, electrical conductivity scanning, crop assessments and the installation of a weather station. Both Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS) and bulk density showed evidence of some compaction across the farm, with poorer structure observed on the heavier textured soils. Earthworm numbers were depleted in a number of fields.


Key messages:

  • Regular monitoring of soil structural condition is vital at the field level to inform soil management decisions
  • The most effective and practical method for determining soil structure is the direct visual and physical examination of the soil profile (e.g. VESS)
  • Earthworm counts are also a useful indicator of overall soil health, important in the development of good soil structure

The aim of this trial is to determine any differences in soil quality and health, crop rooting properties, yield and cost of production between cultivation systems. Starting in 2018, with three cultivation depths at 5, 15 and 30 cm depths before the addition of direct drilling in 2019, this trial will continue for the duration of the Strategic Cereal Farm West programme. In 2019, after the first year of the trial in winter wheat, key soil constraints across the farm are structure and earthworm numbers. Shallow cultivation, to a depth of 5 cm, increased topsoil strength. This was associated with a steeper root angle that led to greater rooting in the subsoil. However, subsoil properties had a greater impact on measured crop traits than cultivation depth. At harvest, there were no significant yield differences.

Further information on harvest 2021 cultivation trials is available here. 

Watch the webinar: Crop establishment considerations

Summer catch crops

This demonstration, which started in 2020, is looking at the effect of a summer catch crop on soil nitrogen supply, soil structure and the performance of the following crop in the rotation. In this trial we are comparing the impact of comparing summer catch crop mixes to leaving the land fallow. Three treatments were established in May 2020 and these are a control where the field has been left in stubble, a phacelia and oil radish mix, and farm saved seed and barley. Soil and crop characteristics will be assessed through to harvest 2022.  

Integrated pest management

Managed lower inputs

Key messages:

  • monitor crops
  • use forecast tools
  • check thresholds to assess risk and apply fungicides accordingly

The aim of this trial is to determine the effect of reduced fungicide applications on varieties for disease control under a range of fungicide strategies.

In 2019, this trial used a split field trial established into winter wheat variety Graham to compare a standard and low input agronomy programme where fungicide applications were applied depending on disease risk. There was no significant difference in yield between the farm standard and low input treatments. However, large differences were observed between soil types.

Read how the harvest 2021 trial on managed lower inputs is progressing. 

In 2022, this trial will compare KWS Extase and KWS Siskin in untreated, farm standard, low and biorational agronomy programmes.

Pests and natural enemies

Key messages:

  • Early indications suggest that slugs were found in higher numbers further away from field margins

Flower and grass strips have been established within fields to determine the impact on selected invertebrate pests and natural enemies to investigate variation in species and abundance. 

Read more information on the harvest 2021 trial for flower strips

Watch the webinar – How to monitor for pests and beneficials

Autumn black-grass control

Read how the trial for alternative control options for autumn black-grass is progressing for harvest 2021. 

Previous meetings

Contact us

If you would like more information about the Strategic Cereal Farm West, please get in touch.

For information on the research, trials, demonstrations and findings, contact: 

For information on events, resources or visiting the Strategic Cereal Farm West, contact:

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