Strategic Cereal Farm East

Brian Barker
East Anglia
Farm sectors:
Cereals & Oilseeds

About Strategic Cereal Farm East

  • E.J. Barker & Sons has hosted 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.

Strategic Farm Week 2020

 For all content, videos, webinar links and resources linked to Strategic Farm Week, please visit:

 Please press the “+ See more” button below to see the details from the harvest 2019 trials and baselining results from the Strategic Cereal Farm East.

Mission and vision

An independent, open and honest platform for UK farmers to see and learn from the integration of research in a practical way within a commercial farming system.

The vision of the Strategic Farm East is to understand the farmed environment and develop a long-term strategy to increase productivity and produce a high quality end-product without having a negative effect on the farmed environment. The project will bridge the gap between research and practical farming and provide a programme of demonstrations, subject to full net-margin cost benefit analysis, which are relevant to the current situation facing UK farming. The project will allow farmers to make informed decisions and increase farmer to farmer engagement.

The core values of the Strategic Farm East are: independent, honest, practical, productive, cost effective and relevant.

Trials – Harvest 2020

The trials taking place at the Strategic Cereal Farm East for harvest 2020 are outlined below:

  1. Managed lower inputs

To determine the effect of reduced fungicide applications on varieties with different disease ratings for disease control under high, medium, low and untreated fungicide strategies.  A continuation of the harvest 2019 demonstration.

  1. Early crop biomass

The aim of the trial is to explore ways in which canopy size in late-drilled crops of winter wheat can be enhanced to improve final yield.  A continuation of the harvest 2019 demonstration.

  1. Cover crops

To determine the role of cover crops in reducing nutrient leaching. A continuation of the harvest 2019 demonstration.

  1. Flower strips

To determine the impact of perennial flower strips on beneficial insect and pest populations.

  1. Very low inputs

To determine the effect of reduced pesticide input applications on pest, weed and disease.

  1. Repeat baselining

To monitor soil and crop characteristics through the rotation, including biomass assessments, soil nutrient and biological analysis, earthworm, VESS and pest and natural enemies assessments

Trials – Harvest 2019

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.

Click here to read the cover crops try-out description

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) are being tested both via broadcast and placed application techniques.

Click here to read the early crop biomass demonstration description

Reduced input

This demonstration looks to determine the effect of reduced fungicide applications and cost of production on varieties with different resistance ratings for disease control under high, medium and low fungicide strategies. Five varieties are being tested in this demonstration including: Silverstone, Graham, Siskin, Shabras and Santiago. 

Click here to read the reduced input try-out description.


In the first year of the Strategic Farm, we carried out a range of assessments 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.

Find out more about the baselining assessments

First year baselining results 

Previous Meetings

Results Day: 26 November 2019

The results day on 26 November 2019 provided information from the second year of trials and demonstrations at Strategic Cereal Farm East.

Earlier meetings

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–; @emilypope_KT 

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

Strategic Cereal Farm East in the press

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)

Brian's blog

You can read Brian's blog by clicking here.

More videos

The worm count test

Visual soil assessments

+ See more

Farm Video