This week saw the return of the Cereals event in Lincolnshire. It took place just a week after Groundswell in Hertfordshire, which is also primarily aimed at farmers.
Separated by only 90 miles geographically, the events are seen by some to symbolize a wider chasm that is opening up in arable farming over how best to grow crops – ecologically and economically.
Cereals, which for several years have been called the country’s first arable event, are seen as a defender of the status quo. These are additional gains for the patient and confidence in the chemistry.
On the other hand, Groundswell is characterized as the event of a new wave of reflection built around regenerative agriculture.
While the hearts of farmers yearn to regenerate, many find their heads always turned to the plow and power harrow
For converts, it may be a rapid, sweeping change away from a plow-based system and more reliance on biology.
Although smaller than in the past, cereals are still the biggest event, but Groundswell is growing.
At Cereals, crowds still thronged the aisles on day one, but major exhibitors such as agronomists and seed breeding companies opted out of participating.
At Groundswell, the number of exhibitors and visitors was on the rise and the atmosphere was clearly positive.
The participants were enthusiastic and eager to learn, recognizing that while their current farming system presents many agronomic and financial challenges, so do radical changes, especially if you are on heavy land or if your rotation has root crops.
However, it would be too early to say that farmers are rushing towards direct seeding.
A leading regenerative farmer told me in Groundswell that maybe only two or three percent of the arable community have fully switched to this system, although others are experimenting with some of the principles.
So, while the hearts of farmers yearn for regeneration, many find their heads always turned to the plow and power harrow.
Speeches by Defra Secretary George Eustice at Groundswell and Cereals show that the department’s vision for the arable sector is a bit more in the old camp.
He pledged this week that from 2022 UK farmers will be paid 30% more under the Sustainable Farming Initiative for a range of soil protection measures than they would currently earn under the equivalent program. Countryside Stewardship.
Depending on the details, this latest announcement may help dilute the financial risks of regime change and push another group of producers to embrace a new way of doing things.
In the approaching post-subsidy world, minimizing reliance on expensive crops and inputs certainly looks appealing, if it can be done without reducing profitability.
The only thing no event and no farmer can afford to do is assume that whatever works for them right now will work forever.
Win a prize – credit where it’s due
The team at Farmers Weekly were delighted to receive the title of Trade Magazine of the Year at the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) awards last week.
As well as being an excuse to congratulate us, the award was also a reminder of the tremendous support we have from each of you – without whom there would be no FW.
We were extremely proud to continue to keep you informed and entertained throughout the pandemic.
As the country opens up, we look forward to seeing you more than ever on the farm and at events, and bringing you even more stories that matter.