The National Organic Combinable Crops event, organised by the Organic Farmers and Growers UK certification body, was held on the 7th July. The event was hosted by John Pawsey, an organic farmer in the East of England, who manages over 1,000 ha organically on hanslope clay. John has also just introduced 250 New Zealand Romney sheeps into his previously stockless organic system. The farm was in phased conversion between 1999 and 2007 and has taken on several nearby management contracts.
The event included over 200 delegates representing all stages of the supply chain, from farmers to industry and retail. Demonstrations in the field included the farmer’s novel crops and demonstrations on assessing soil quality.
Trials as part of the EU COBRA and OSCAR projects were demonstrated by Nick Fradgley from the Organic Research Centre as a presentation and in the field. The trials included winter wheat lines which were selected from the ORC YQ population under organic conditions as well as the original population which is being grown by the farmer as seed crop to be marketed to farmers this year.
Very high levels of black grass weeds and compacted soil has unfortunately meant that it has been difficult to see the advantage of these varieties.
These trials also include two way, three way, four way and five way mixtures of each of the lines to look at the effects of increased within-crop diversity on yield resilience and competitive interactions among components in the mixture. It is expected that the variation across the field will be shown to be buffered against through compensatory effects in the mixtures compared to monoculture plots.
A series of fifty lines of winter wheat in ear rows, which were selected by a group of farmers on the same farm the previous year, were also on show for evaluation by participants who could simply vote for the best looking line with a peg in a washing line. This process revealed that farmer preferences for wheat varieties in this environment favour taller plants which are better able to cope with high levels of competition from black grass and demonstrates how farmers could select locally adapted pure-line varieties from the population.
Bruce Pearce also talked about the launch of the ORC Wakelyns winter wheat population which will be marketed and available to farmers this year as part of the EU temporary experiment.
Click here to read the ORC contribution to the event: Nick Fradgley’s Presentation