This is a second guest post from LEAF Board Member and LEAF Marque farmer, Matthew Naylor. You can read his previous post here.
We have found that when we make changes to help the environment on our farm, they often save us money too.
There were a few years when oil and water were unrealistically cheap and this made for some confusing economics. Nowadays, anything that can be done to reduce the use of power, fertiliser or chemicals makes a real difference to a farm’s bottom line.
I have been planting daffodil bulbs this week. This year we are using some new equipment to make the job easier and more accurate. We are using GPS technology to steer the tractor on the planter, this ensures that our rows of flowers are perfectly straight. This has two major advantages. The first is that our neighbours can’t take the mickey out of us for wonky driving. I’ve never been one to worry about that; I’m more interested in the second advantage. This is that we can now place the fertiliser very accurately in a little trickle underneath each plant. We have a special blend of fertiliser made for us which is designed around the field’s nutrient levels and the needs of each crop.
Now that we are placing the right fertiliser in the right place, we have reduced the amount of Phosphorous and Potassium that we use by 30%. We do not need to add any Nitrogen to the daffodils now; they get more than enough from the leftover leaves from the cauliflower crop which we ploughed in before we started planting. This means that we are using half as much fertiliser on our bulbs as we were five years ago but without any difference to our yields. This makes a big financial saving for us. We have applied the same techniques to our potato crops this year as well.
This new system helps to reduce the risk of our soil nutrients oxidising (that’s when they react with the atmosphere and turn into gas), it means that the Nitrogen and Phosphorous are much less likely to be washed into watercourses and it doesn’t encourage weeds to grow in between the flowers.
This type of change is what LEAF farming is all about, setting yourself the challenge to make improvements to the way that you work. Although it takes a bit of time, thought and investment for a start, you always get more back in return.
This post was written by LEAF Board Member Matthew Naylor, a flower grower farming with his father, Nev, in Moulton Marsh in Lincolnshire. They are a LEAF Marque farm supplying Waitrose and Marks and Spencer.