Strategic Cereal Farm East

Name:
Brian Barker
Location:
Stowmarket, Suffolk
Farm sectors:
Cereals & Oilseeds
Twitter:

About Strategic Cereal Farm East

  • E.J. Barker & Sons has hosted the Strategic Cereal Farm East since November 2017
  • Brian Barker and his cousin Patrick run E.J. Barker & Sons, a family farm partnership and contracting business in Suffolk dating back to 1957
  • The family owned 513ha arable farm business is farmed on a traditional 12- year rotation, incorporating winter wheat for feed, herbage grass seed and break crops of spring barley, beans, oilseed rape or linseed
  • Environmental consideration is crucial to the running of the business and remains a key factor in all decision-making on farm.

Follow the Strategic Cereal Farm East, with Brian Barker, if you are interested in:

  • Ways to manage reducing inputs on-farm, whilst maintaining productivity and enhancing the environment
  • Harnessing the potential of varieties to alter fungicide strategies
  • Using cover crops to improve soil health and water quality
  • Using flowering strips to encourage beneficials and predators
  • Analysing the parts of your farm that would be considered marginal land

Please press the “+ See more” button below to see the details of the Strategic Cereal Farm East demonstrations, baselining and previous event resources.

You can also follow the conversation on by searching for #StrategicFarm or following @The_Barker_Boys on Twitter.

Strategic Farm East Demonstrations

For full details, results and costings for all of these demonstrations, please refer to the handouts, videos and slides listed in the ‘Reports, events and details’ section below, grouped by their topics and themes.

Managed lower inputs

This demonstration has looked to determine the effect of reduced fungicide applications and cost of production on different varieties with differing resistance ratings for disease control under high, medium and low fungicide strategies. For harvest 2021, this has been taken forward to large plots of a single variety of winter wheat (Gleam), which will be tested under high and low input agronomy strategies, compared with untreated plots. Seven timing treatments will be used to determine the effect of fungicide application timings on disease control, yield response and cost of production.

Read more information about the harvest 2021 trial for managed lower inputs

Key results to-date:

  • Harvest 2019 and 2020 have been low disease pressure seasons
  • Results in these years have shown that growing more resistant varieties with a low input regime gave the best net margin
  • There was a minimal yield response to increasing fungicide spend on the resistant varieties with the low inputs, showing the best net margins.
  • Highest percentage of septoria seen on the most susceptible variety, Santiago
  • More resistant varieties (i.e. Graham and Siskin) tended to hold onto green leaf area for longer

Full details are in the harvest 2020 report (p.8-17) and harvest 2019 report (21-27).

Cover crops

Water sampling from land drains in the baselining year of the Strategic Cereal Farm East showed the benefits of using cover crops to improve water quality. This demonstration tests the use of an over-winter cover crop versus over winter-plough and over-winter stubble on land before a spring crop and its effect on soil health and water quality. The demonstration will then assess the cover crop’s effect on subsequent crops in the rotation, including assessments of nitrogen uptake and losses, changes to soil health and crop yields.

Read more information about the harvest 2021 trial for cover crops and water quality

Key results to-date:

  • The results demonstrate that a well-established cover crop is effective at taking up nitrogen and improving water quality by reducing nitrate concentrations in drainage water to below 50mg/l.
  • Reductions in spring crop yields following cover crops in harvest 2020 were observed.  These were likely to be as a result of poor spring crop establishment (combination of slug damage and traffic on wet soil conditions)
  • When choosing the right cover crop for your system, it is important to take into consideration:
  1. Overall aim of cover cropping
  2. Soil type
  3. Rotational conflicts (e.g. carryover of pests and diseases)
  4. Timing & method of cover crop sowing and destruction

Full details are in the harvest 2020 report (p.21-27), the results video with Brian Barker (host) and Kate Smith (ADAS) and the harvest 2019 report (p.7-14).

Flowering strips

Within an arable environment, non-crop habitats constitute one of the most important sources of biodiversity with field margins acting as the main source of beneficial species of pollinators and insect predators. This demonstration is looking to determine the impact of perennial flower strips, both around and within the field, on beneficial insect and pest populations.

Read more about the harvest 2021 flower strip trial

Key results to-date:

  • All fields exhibited different species abundance of invertebrate pests and beneficials, and no field could be considered ‘average’
  • Management options need to be applied to fit each field where possible, accounting for surrounding habitats, underlying conditions and existing management practices
  • There was no clear evidence in this study so far, of an impact of distance into the crop on pest or beneficial invertebrate abundance, though there is a lot of evidence from larger studies that the number of beneficials reduces further into the field

 Full details are in the harvest 2020 report (p. 30-55) and in the results video with Brian Barker and Rob Fox (hosts) and Kate Smith (ADAS).

Marginal land

The aim of this work is to conduct analysis of multiple farm datasets to classify areas of land on the Strategic Cereal Farm East that provide agricultural value, and to identify those areas of land that have little agriculture value and potential for profit from an arable rotation and could be used in the future as an opportunity for implementing environmental schemes. The data sets will include: farm rotation, yield, soil and satellite imagery maps, farm costings, drainage maps and many more.

Read more about calculating the cost of marginal land

Very low inputs

This demonstration was carried out in harvest 2020, to determine the effect of reduced pesticide input applications on pests, weeds and disease in one field – how low can you go?

Results suggest in a low disease pressure season there is little benefit in increasing fungicide spend to improve gross margins

Full details are in the report (p.56-58) and summer video with Brian Barker.

Early crop biomass

It has been shown that a crop with high biomass has more of a potential to achieve higher yield, can reduce nutrient losses over winter and may help with the agronomic challenge of drilling later for black-grass and BYDV. This demonstration looks to better understand how starter fertilisers can contribute to boosting biomass in the autumn and winter for winter wheat. Three products (Polysulphate, TSP and Kieserite) have been tested both via broadcast and placed application techniques.

Key messages:

  • Consider the use of starter fertiliser in late-sown crops or in conditions where slug presence is common e.g. high trash levels or cloddy seedbeds, to improve initial crop establishment.
  • If possible, starter fertiliser should be placed alongside the seed to give best results. If broadcasting, then product choice is extremely important and mobility is a very important property to be considered.  Harvest 2020 results showed that there may be yield benefits from broadcasting kieserite and possibly TSP at planting where soil nutrient indices are low.
  • On Wyverstone Road in harvest 2020, broadcast kieserite and TSP appeared to increase yield by up to 0.4t\ha, whilst polysulphate showed no yield benefit compared to standard farm practice

Full details in the harvest 2020 report (p.18-21), the summer video with Brian Barker (host) and Damian Hatley (ADAS) and harvest 2019 report (p.15-20).

Repeat baselining

In the first year of the Strategic Cereal Farm, a range of assessments were carried out, in order to create a baseline for the farm. These assessments included: soil analysis, earthworm assessments, drain water quality assessments, electrical conductivity scanning, crop assessments and a weather station was installed. This has been repeated in the third year of the farm.

Find out more about the baselining assessments.

First year baselining results.

For full details, results and costings for all of these demonstrations, please refer to the handouts listed in the ‘Reports, events and further details’ section below.

Repeat baselining

In the first year of the Strategic Cereal Farm, a range of assessments were carried out, in order to create a baseline for the farm. These assessments included: soil analysis, earthworm assessments, drain water quality assessments, electrical conductivity scanning, crop assessments and a weather station was installed. This has been repeated in the third year of the farm.

Reports, events and further details

Strategic Farm Week - Winter 2020

This week, during November 2020, brought together the results from the Strategic Farm East trials and demonstrations from harvest 2020, along with wider discussions around the key themes of managed lower inputs and building diversity above and below ground.

Strategic Farm Week - Summer 2020

A week dedicated to the latest results and information from AHDB's Strategic Cereal Farms.

For more information, please visit the Strategic Farm Week - Summer 2020 webpage.

Earlier meetings and results

Contact us

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

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

  • Brian Barker, Strategic Cereal Farm Host - @The_Barker Boys 
  • Emily Pope, AHDB Knowledge Transfer Manager– emily.pope@ahdb.org.uk; @emilypope_KT 

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

To find out more about our network, please click on the links below:

Strategic Cereal Farm East in the press

Why yield mapping is first step in bridging BPS income gap (Farmers Weekly, February 2021)

How trials are helping two farmers maximise crop margins (Farmers Weekly, January 2020)

How two farmers hope to make better use of crop inputs (Farmers Weekly, August 2019)

Crop trials in practice (Farmers Guardian, June 2019)

Can farmers be less reliant on fungicides? (Farmers Weekly, April 2019)

Decision-making in farming is as complex as a game of chess (East Anglian Daily Times, August 2018)

Bridging the gap between research and reality (East Anglian Daily Times, November 2017)

Baselining - the start of the Strategic Farm East (blog, December 2017)

Visual soil assessments

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