A new field lab trialling Lupins has been getting underway at 12 farms across the south west of England. The group are looking for an alternative crop to supplement imported soya in organic animal feed. We asked innovative farmer, Roy Gamlin why he’s taking part.
Roy farms 150 acres of organic arable land on his family farm on the Devon, Somerset border. He’s always looking for innovative crops and new routes to market. At the moment he’s growing 30 acres of linseed on contract for export to Brittany, and he’s working on machinery to harvest and process borage. Having tried Lupins in the past, Roy is now bringing his experience to the Innovative Farmers field lab.
How did you hear about the field lab?
I read about the trial in the Mole Valley newsletter. Nigel from Mole Valley is coordinating the field lab and has seen increasing problems with the supply of organic protein over the past couple of years, at the same time as growing demand. They’re looking for alternative crops that can be grown in our climate and were looking for participants interested in trialling Lupins.
Why did you want to take part in the field lab?
We actually tried a crop of blue Lupins ten years ago. They did well, but we needed to work on drilling wide enough rows and developing our mechanical hoe. Having tried it alone, I was really attracted by the idea of spreading the risk. There are twelve farms taking part, all with slightly different conditions and who’ll all bring something different to the trial. We’ve got a researcher from Reading University on board, which happens to be where I studied agriculture back before I took on the family farm. She’s got all the previous research on Lupins, so we can learn from others’ difficulties and successes. I’m also really intrigued by innovative crops. If this works, there’s a ready market and we’ll be ahead of the curve.
What do you think will make the trial successful?
Tackling weeds is going to be our main challenge. Here, I’m finetuning a mechanical hoe. On other farms they’ll be companion cropping with peas and under sowing with barley to help out-compete weeds. One farmer is also trialling soya as he is personally interested in how this will work. But it generally takes more processing post-harvest, so the rest of us aren’t trialling it.
Why do you think farmer-led research is important?
Many farmers are innovators. I know personally I’d much rather take a risk and give something a go, rather than playing it safe. That’s what I’ve always done. I’ve had some failures but I’ve had success with some pretty unusual crops and I’m expecting Lupins will be another.