Blog

Managing Nutrients

P.X. Farms has a longstanding relationship with precision farming specialist SOYL, and we have exploited soil analysis combined with nutrient offtake data to establish soil, status and direct variable rate applications where necessary.

We still study the data and will use analysis when taking on a new tenancy, as well at the end of its term, or for contracts, to document soil quality improvements,” explains James.

However, we are moving increasingly to blanket applications of lower costs product. Variable-rate application is still appropriate for higher-cost treatments. By standardising treatments, we can aim for meaningful measurements.

The aim is to increase indices with a target of 2+, and each field receives nutrients every year. “Sulphur has an increased influence, and we are carrying out sulphur trials. Due to the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, we will need to supplement sulphur on crops such as brassicas.”

Nutrient sources are also carefully considered – Limex, Fibrophos and Gypsum are all used.

James says: “Fibrophos is heat-treated chicken manure which has no odour, so is more socially acceptable in built-up areas and helps avoid nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) issues. We also like products that can be stored outdoors and spread in summer.

Prioritising Drainage when Taking on New Land

Drainage is a priority for new farms, with the first course of action being to dig ditches out and cut back hedges, allowing assessment of existing drains.

PX Farms Sapperton 2020

Generally, it is headland drains which have failed, or old infrastructure systems, as increasingly heavy machinery can break pipes. Headland drains often prolong life to the field if replaced as they take the largest impact from water, machinery and block outfalls resulting in damaged systems.

Soil sampling follows, and pH is corrected if necessary, along with P&K levels. Where there is evidence of compaction, this is addressed with a deep subsoil.

You can see the difference, after 600mm of rain in winter 2019-20, land that had been in CTF had no standing water, whereas farms that were new to us were waterlogged,” comments James.

Obtaining drone footage can also be revealing for these farms, giving an accurate picture which is more up to date than Google Maps.

P.X. Farms Workshop First to be Tilly Pass Approved

The workshop at P.X. Farms is now authorised to inspect trailers for the Tilly Pass scheme, the first on-farm facility so far approved to carry out this vital function.

Tilly Pass Certificate

Agricultural trailers are legally required under PUWER 98 Regulations to be in a roadworthy condition – well maintained and in good working order with records of maintenance held by the owner/farmer. However, this can be overlooked with busy farm schedules, and many farms don’t have the experienced mechanics qualified to carry out a thorough inspection.

The Tilly Trailer Pass offers the opportunity to maintain trailers to the legal standard. An annual 18-point inspection is carried out on the trailer owner’s farm by authorised mechanics from a list of approved dealers at www.tillypass.co.uk. Upon completion of the test, a Tilly certificate will be fixed to the tailgate of the trailer, clearly displaying a Tilly Pass unique number. This number is recorded along with the chassis number for a thorough record of your maintenance.

“Farm safety is at the heart of everything we do – P.X. Farms has a Tilly Pass on trailers large and small, including trailed implements, to ensure that they are up to standard,” comments P.X. Farms Managing Director James Peck.

We are pleased to have been approved to carry out the inspections in our dedicated workshop so that we can ensure that this vital safety check takes place, regardless of our busy workload.”

Investing in Soils for the Future

At P.X. Farms, we understand the importance of reducing environmental impact and input costs while increasing crop yield and farming efficiency. Led by fourth-generation farmer and P.X. Farms Managing Director James Peck, we are custodians of the land, dedicated to improving the condition of the land to hand it over to future generations. We work with highly skilled and trained agronomists. Drawing on our unique, in-depth knowledge and expertise we promote healthy soil through soil sampling, efficient drainage, long term management, and cutting edge farming practices. In particular, controlled traffic farming (CTF) and good drainage have permitted rotational change that would otherwise have not been possible.

James Peck explains: “We are in our 10th year of CTF, reducing the trafficked areas of land from 86% to 13%. Now 87% of the land is untouched by a tractor wheel for 12 months, and we have seen the soil restructure.

The soils surrounding our base at Scotland Farm are chalk and boulder clay, which restricts the ability to grow certain crops. But due to the improvements in the soil from CTF, the soil indices have improved by almost a grade. Where drainage had initially been put in place much of it had failed, so we have added new drains which prevent water pooling on the land and soils becoming compacted.

By minimising compaction, we can grow sugar beet and potatoes which need high-quality soils to thrive.

Wheat takes a back seat.” says James. “It can be drilled later into healthier soil and weed control is made easier as the strong crop growth can outcompete weeds.

We now drill wheat from September to February instead of in October, grow the first wheat and due to the improved soil conditions can drill following root crops. Dependent on the soil, P.X. Farms grows between eight and 15 crops in rotation – and James explains: “A longer rotation makes for healthier crops and gives more opportunities to control problem weeds such as black-grass, brome and couch. Research has shown that if we simply switch to spring crops, weeds soon adapt, but a wide rotation with a range of timings can avoid this.

Drainage schemes have been designed by experts in drainage, William Morfoot Ltd. They have been draining land across the UK for almost half a century, and have designed drainage to work alongside our CTF patterns, installing mole drains in the same direction as the tramlines and wheelways.

Find out more about our long term soil health programme.

Our limestone is in great demand

As you may have seen from James’s @PXFarms or our @PXFarmsHaulage Twitter accounts recently, we’ve been selling different grades of limestone for farm use at very competitive prices – and it’s been in great demand.

We’ve sold more than 3,000 tons of limestone that farming and other businesses need for turning areas, tracks and paths, drainage and other uses.

Limestone is really versatile. It can, when pulverised, act as a soil conditioner and help supply crops with nutrients. It’s also great for gardens and for lawns – gardeners will often use it to revitalise and thicken grass. Some of the best golf courses in the world even use it for their greens.

In addition, limestone can be used in horse stables – if safely applied so that the horse doesn’t come into direct contact with the limestone – to create better ventilation and prevent thrush and respiratory conditions.

Our haulage team is of course doing a fantastic job of delivering limestone to our customers, as well as continuing with our other haulage work.

As you may have seen from Twitter, our haulage trucks have even made it as far as the West Country, and our haulage services are in ever-greater demand – especially at a strange time like lockdown.

If you would like pricing for our different grades of limestone and our haulage services, give our friendly team a call on 01954 210 211 (option 1) or email transport@pxfarms.com

Discover our latest video showcasing CTF and potatoes from soil preparation to storage

We’ve launched our latest video showcasing controlled traffic farming (CTF) with potatoes with the first 8 row planting potato planting system in the UK featuring:

  • 6m Standen Powavator
  • 8 row combination planter
  • 6m Kuhn power harrow and planter combination
  • Grimme 8 row potato planter
  • CAT Challenger MT865C
  • Horsch PT 280 sprayer
  • Grimme 4 row Tectron 415 self propelled harvester
  • Grimme combi cleaner loader
  • Grimme fall breaker
  • Automated box fillers

 

Read more about P.X. potato farming with CTF

Interested to learn more about controlled traffic farming? James will be speaking at the Farming Scotland Conference

Join our Managing Director, James Peck, at this year’s Farming Scotland Conference on 13th February 2020. We have successfully used Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) in growing and harvesting his potato crop – believed to be a first in the UK.

P.X. Farms has been using CTF with a range of crops, including combinable crops and sugar beet since 2010 across five counties with varying soil types and has reduced soil compaction from 86% to 13% in the process. In 2019 he applied CTF to farming potatoes for their first time and states great success in improving efficiency and yield.

We are a multi-faceted agribusiness, farming more than 10,000 acres of combinable crops, potatoes and sugar beet on owned land, farm business tenancy, contract or vegetable license basis. Our Founder and Managing Director James Peck believes passionately in farming scale and driving forward innovation in the industry. He has built the business to provide field to mill services that can adapt, innovate and overcome farming challenges.

Working closely with specialist machinery manufacturers to modify kit for CTF, we have been able to devise a system which improves soil health and reduces compaction. With potatoes, the reduction in soil compaction is expected to be up to 50%, providing lasting soil structure benefits. Efficiencies have also been achieved by reducing cultivations, improving the yield and ultimately enhancing the profitability of the enterprise.

Commenting on the innovation, James says: 

“Our business ethos is to drive innovation and efficiency into farming practices so that the sector is fit for the future. We’ve invested heavily in state-of-the-art technology to help create new opportunities, as well as greater efficiencies and yields.”

He adds:

“We are delighted with the results from our first season using CTF with potatoes. It allows for a greater diversity of crops in the existing broad rotation, which in turn provides the opportunity for a better return back to landowners.”

James will be speaking at the forthcoming Farming Scotland Conference where he will showcase his innovation to delegates from throughout the Scottish farming sector. For more information about the conference and to register, click here.

Follow the conversation – @Pxfarms @FarmScotConf #FarmScot20 #ControlledTrafficFarming #CTF

 

Using Controlled Traffic Farming with potatoes to reduce compaction and improve soil health

Continuing to pioneer innovation, we’ve applied controlled traffic farming (CTF) to our first time growing potatoes in 2019. Since 2010 we’ve been using CTF instead of large scale random traffic across a broad range of crops including sugar beet, and have successfully reduced compaction from 86% to 13% with a 12m system. With sugar beet and potatoes, we usually see about 140% compaction, which we aim to reduce by 50%.

Our Managing Director James Peck has worked extensively over the years with machinery manufacturers to modify kit for CTF. Farming potatoes was no different and saw James teaming up with Grimme and Kuhn to modify the existing kit to work with CTF tramlines to facilitate growing potatoes. CTF improves soil health and reduces clod and soil compaction. This means that there is less need for extra cultivations.

We prepared the soil for potato planting with the 6.00m Horsch Terrano and 6.00m Standen Powavator. Planting was done with the eight-row Grimme GL860 Compacta planter which was sourced from The Netherlands which was used with the modified Kuhn power harrow. We use a 75cm row system instead of 90cm row system mostly found across the UK.

Check out our video of potato planting:

 

We use precise technology like real-time kinematic (RTK) and GPS for accurate application without overlap across our broad rotation of crops:

 

The first potato harvest took place with the Grimme Tectron 415 Harvester. Using a self-propelled harvester with running gear reduces compaction and prevents deep ruts.

The Grimme RH 24-60 Clean Loader provided an onsite cleaning operation reducing the need to trailer the potatoes too far. With dryer soils at the beginning of the potato harvest, we used pickers on the platform to remove any clods. Discover our team in action below:

 

Potatoes were sorted with the Grimme PowerCombi TOMRA Field Potato Sorter and loaded in the store with the SL816 Storeloader and direct to our haulage lorries with the lorry filling attachment.

Our diverse crop rotation allows us to rotate crops throughout the year by combining modern technology with traditional farming practices. Now introducing potatoes into this rotation, we plan to choose potato varieties well suited to the field types. Using Integrated Crop Management helps conserve wildlife havens, enrich biodiversity, improve pest control, soil health, crop quality and yield, and cash flow. We can also simplify labour management and farming efficiencies.

PX Farms, Cambridgeshire: Soil focus pays – feature in Profi

 

Using Controlled-Traffic Farming (CTF) to limit soil compaction has enabled Cambridgeshire-based PX Farms to grow a wider range of more profitable crops and boost yields by improving soil quality, says managing director James Peck. “In a difficult harvest you can really see the impact, because the combine and chaser bin are running in defined areas, and only those areas are affected by wheelings, as opposed to trailers running randomly around the field,” he comments. “As technology advances, the benefits can only increase, as we will also be able to define the arc for the combine’s headland turns. In addition, if we are looking to farm with robots in the future we will need to be able to control every aspect of their movement around the field.”

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