This month has been a baptism by fire in my new job as assistant manager at RSPB’s Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire. My first week working full time at the farm, following finishing my masters degree, and we were off to the Cereals 2017 event in Lincolnshire. This is one of the biggest events in agriculture, and a real eye opener for a new-bee like myself with an awful lot to learn.
The two day event starred the biggest names in agricultural technology, from crop research, to fertilizers, pesticides, and of course wildlife-friendly, sustainable farming which I take a particular interest in.
I stood on the stand with RSPB who were telling the story of Hope Farm – this provided a good opportunity to speak with people who may otherwise never even think about us when considering sustainable farming. We explained how the farm was brought in 2000, before being monitored through its evolution into a wildlife friendly farm, to demonstrate good practice, research new sustainable methods, and influence policy to develop the Countryside Stewardship Schemes. It was good to explain where the farm is looking to for the future, cooperating with Agrii and CEH to undertake some cutting edge research in the cover crops field – literally.
Although I enjoyed spending time on the stand, I learnt the most whilst wandering around to see what stories other organisations had to tell and whilst attending a fantastic talk on black grass.
Dr Stephen Moss gave a very thought provoking talk titled ‘Black-grass – taking a different approach’. As expected, Moss spoke complete sense and raised points that led very few people in the room thinking they were doing everything they could to stop black grass. A strong possibility was underlined that glyphosate, our only effective treatment against the aggressive weed, may no longer have an impact in the future in protecting our crops.
To help prepare for that, Moss provided a 5-pronged attack. From ensuring we plough well, putting more seeds in the soil than we bring up, to repeating treatments of glyphosate in an area that was treated for black grass the following year, each and every logical point made me a little more attuned to the battle against this virulent weed.
Cereals was full of exciting technology, interesting agricultural research, and over all interesting people to find among the crowds. It was a first for me, and I will be sure to pay another visit next year. It is an event I cannot recommend more for anybody who has an interest in farming, particularly sustainable farming, or even anybody looking for a free straw hat – there are plenty of those to go around as well!