How have you found the first year of the trial?
I first got involved to see if lupins would fit in the rotation, whether it’s a valuable crop to grow and if there’s a market for it. It was a bad year for our spring crops. It was too dry early in the year and come harvest time, it was too wet. The lupins didn’t germinate very well to start with but as time went on, they came up and filled in, and now it does look like a better crop. We’re keen to extend the trial into 2018. This year we’ll be much further ahead as we’ll have learnt from our experience.
What have you learnt?
I think plant population is critical. Where we had good numbers, weeds were not an issue. Lupins are quite an open crop, so if you have bad weather and they don’t establish well, the weeds tend to challenge them. This year we’re going to give them a go on a larger plot, as we’ll get a better picture of what’s going on.
You can’t go on one year alone really as there are so many variables in a field trial situation. It’s a bit like organic farming. Every year you learn a bit more, and over time you start to accumulate a mosaic of knowledge to inform decisions.
Why do you think this sort of research is important?
The more farmers that get off their farms the better, otherwise we’re all a bit cocooned. Generally, you stay in your own little silo. I’m in my ‘running the farm’ silo and Mole Valley are in their ‘producing & selling feed’ silo. Unless you talk to each other you’re not going to start understanding where the problems are. So getting different people with different perspectives together and finding common problems is a really helpful exercise.
The commercial side of research needs to be looked at again. A new ground up approach is needed, we should be asking‘what are the problems that farmers are facing'? It shouldn’t just focus on thinking up new products, it should tackle on-the-ground issues for the farmer and strike at the root of the problem.