Organic farmer looks to Sweden to help boost soil fertility

Date Published: 30/06/2015

An organic farmer is taking inspiration from growers in Sweden in an effort to find new ways to grow crops and increase his soil fertility through green manures.

John Pawsey, who manages 1500 acre Shimpling Park Farm near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, has introduced a three-in-one drill after seeing it at work on farms in Sweden.

The machine, called System Cameleon, is a drill, fertiliser applicator and interrow cultivator in one, which allows producers to accurately place fertiliser between rows of winter-sown crops in the spring.

The drill can also act as an interrow cultivator, with its automatic steering options combining camera images, GPS and a side-shift mechanism for accurate weeding between the crop rows.

The system has become increasingly popular in Scandinavian countries as a way to grow uncompetitive crops, and Mr Pawsey thinks it has potential for his system to sow companion crops like wheat and beans, triticale with soya or barley with peas.

The System Cameleon drill will be one of many attractions being showcased at this year’s National Organic Combinable Crops Conference, which is being held at Mr Pawsey’s 1500 acre farm on Tuesday 7 July.

The event will also be an opportunity to examine the results of extensive crop trials, including cereals, legumes and novel crops such as so-called ‘superfood’ quinoa.

A guided farm walk will also allow delegates to see weed control methods being trialled, as well as a project involving bringing New Zealand Romney sheep back onto the farm and a look at how Controlled Traffic Farming is helping improve nutrient uptake on the farm.

In addition to practical farming information, NOCC will also give delegates the opportunity to hear about the latest legislative and market issues affecting the organic sector.

Leading industry speakers including IFOAM EU president Christopher Stopes and Chris Cowan, consumer insight director at Kantar WorldPanel, will look at issues ranging from the future of organic regulation in Europe to predicted shopping trends over the coming months.

The event will also give people a chance to talk directly to representatives from Defra, Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency.

This will be of special interest to those looking to gain entry on to the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, which opens for applications from 1 July.

OF&G will also have experienced certification staff on hand throughout the day for any organic certification queries.

Now in its eighth year, NOCC attracts more than 200 delegates ranging from farmers to policy makers, buyers, seed companies and researchers.

Tickets for the event, which is open to all farmers whether they farm organically or non-organically, are available by filling out the booking form at the OF&G website www.ofng.me/p3

Places are still available, but it is worth booking quickly to avoid disappointment. Tickets cost £30 each, with discounts available for family members who also wish to attend.