The arable unit offers an opportunity to understand and promote positive benefits to wildlife and the environment, through Countryside Stewardship and Entry Level Stewardship schemes in conjunction with growing commercial crops.
The predominant arable crop is winter wheat grown in rotation with spring barley, oilseed rape and forage maize. Second wheats are occasionally grown. Varieties chosen are those which have the potential to produce a respectable yield and have the ability to offer good resistance to disease. We also consult our grain merchant, Wessex Grain, who offer advice on the best varieties for the market.
Cropping for the 2013-14 growing season consists of;
- 62.08 ha. winter wheat for milling
- 22.80 ha. spring barley for malting
- 35.56 ha. winter barley for malting
- 22.06 ha. of forage maize for our own animal winter feed – Mole Valley Farmers variety trials have been hosted by the College for the last five years with the data provided being used by our students and local farmers.
Yields are within the range of 8.5 tonnes/hectare for wheat, 5.5 t/ha for spring barley, 7t/ha for winter barley and 40 for maize.
The College has no drying facilities; therefore grain is transferred as soon as possible to Wessex Grain stores. We have agreed a contract to store 650 tonnes in a long term pool, this allows grain traders to market the product throughout the year and hopefully to ensure maximum returns.
We have worked closely with an independent agronomist, for the past 7 years to create a fertiliser and pesticide policy which is tailored to commercial as well as environmental considerations. Applications are planned for each crop, taking into account previous crops grown, manure applications and soil analysis.
The whole estate is in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone, we therefore use Planet software for record keeping and to satisfy our obligations for fertiliser and manure use. The farm subscribes to a buying group, Crop Advisors, based in Hampshire who are able to source large quantities of fertiliser, seeds and agrochemicals for a great many farmers in the area, who in turn benefit financially from this group buying power.
Grass leys in recent years have tended to be kept for 4 to 5 years and provide good quality first cut silage for the dairy with strong aftermaths for finishing lambs.
We include a significant amount of clover in our mixtures which helps to reduce the need for nitrogen fertiliser applications. We also utilise dairy slurry on grass fields to further reduce the necessity for artificial fertiliser.
The typical 4-5 year seed mixture sown at 15kg/acre used consists of;
- 3kg Aberdart, intermediate PRG (Dip) HSRG
- 3kg Abermagic intermediate PRG (Dip) HSRG
- 3kg Aberavon, late PRG (Dip) HSRG.
- 3kg Twymax Tet, late PRG (Tet)
- 2kg Aston Energy, intermediate PRG (Tet)
- 0.5kg Aberpearl white clover (medium leaved)
- 0.3kg Aberace white clover (small leaved)
- 0.2kg Aberconcord white clover (medium leaved)
Key; HSRG = High Sugar Ryegrass, PRG = Perennial Ryegrass, Dip = Diploid, Tet = Tetraploid.
Our permanent pasture provides extensive grazing for sheep and beef with low fertiliser inputs. The use of the tined grass rake and pasture slit aerator enables us to encourage and maximise the soil’s natural fertility.