New Monitor Farm will help farmers face future

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Northern Ireland’s farmers flocked to the launch of AHDB’s new Monitor Farm near Downpatrick on 19 June.

Almost 75 farmers attended the event, which was hosted by Richard Orr at Meadow Farm.

AHDB Monitor Farms bring together groups of farmers who want to improve their businesses by sharing performance information and best practice around a nationwide network of more than 30 host farms.

Richard said: “I wanted to host a Monitor Farm so I could be challenged, rather than just sticking to what we have always been doing.”

As host of the Monitor Farm, Richard was pleased with the positive reception given to the new project.

“It feels good to be on our way,” Richard said. “It’s great to see there’s potential to get people on board to learn, ask questions and challenge their own businesses.”

Farm agronomist David Townley, one of the people helping to steer the project, said: “Farmers need to learn. We need to progress. There are big challenges ahead.”

After a farm walk taking in barley variety trials, maize and hybrid rye, growers at the meeting put their heads together to set out their priorities for the three years of the Monitor Farm project.

The list of topics and challenges included:

q Soil structure in extreme conditions

q Soil nutrition

q Incorporating more organic matter into soil

q Profitability post-Brexit

q Cover crops

q Plant health, especially with the loss of chemicals

q Weed control

q Rotation and lack of entry opportunity for first wheats

Host Richard and other farmers in the group will be using AHDB’s Farmbench programme to analyse their business costs and underpin all their discussions.

Tim Isaac, AHDB Head of Arable Knowledge Exchange, said: “By working together, farmers can come up with solutions to common challenges, especially given all the changes coming up.”

Richard added: “[Local farmers] need to prepare their businesses, to understand their costs of production and what they’re doing right or wrong.

“Hopefully together we’ll move forward as an industry and be a bit more resilient for the future.”

Visit cereals.ahdb.org.uk/Downpatrick to find out more about the Northern Irish farm.