Best In Field Awards: Winter Milling Wheat - John Hammond & Co

Tom and Ed Hammond of John Hammond & Co have been credited with having the best Milling Wheat for the 2021 harvest. We spoke to Tom Hammond to find out what the farm are doing to produce KWS Siskin at £38.61 a ton.

Tom, tell us about yourself: 

I’ve been a partner in the farm for 12 years now, worked on the farm for 20 or so years. I have my BASIS qualification generally do all the spraying and accounts software side in conjunction with my cousin who is FACTS qualified. And he does most of the cultivations. We have 2 full time members of staff. We run a direct drill system, growing wheat, barley, maize, potatoes, sugar beet, and a CFA (stubble to stubble) 160Ha  for another client.

Tell us a little about the farm:

It’s a family farm about 400 hectares around Nottinghamshire, another 300 hectares around Gainsborough that’s contract farmed. The family has been here since the late 60’s. Soil wise we have got some koiper mile, some fairly heavy clay and then riverbed Trent gravel, so fairly varying across the board.

You said you are BASIS trained, what’s your agronomic set up?

We’ve got 2 agronomists that do the day to day, crop walking and then we look at recommendations. We’re going down the Regenerative Farming route, so trying to reduce fungicide applications across the board and on our own farm we have not put any insecticide on anything for the last 2 years. We’re looking more at nutrition and reduce the number of fungicides passes but that is down to the varieties and trying to keep the plant healthy.

On the Regenerative theme, are there other elements to what you are doing on farm?

Yes, we’ve got 100 ha that we’ve put down to a flowering mix which is covered by Severn Trent. We are also looking to go into the SFI scheme in the future, but we need to manage that with the direct drilling issue that we’ve got around black grass control. We’ve got 230 hectares of spring barley that we’re putting in to work around spring cropping in the rotation to try and increase the inputs to combat the blackgrass.

You were at 6 wheat varieties last year, is that the sort of breadth you like to go for in terms of spreading risk?

Personally, I’d prefer to narrow it down, but it is just trialling a couple of tonne of the new variety each year and seeing how they do and taking certain ones forward.

How do you decide end market? Is that variety driven, geographical area, price?

We’ve been trying to pick the most agronomically sound varieties, the ones that are not going to need the most fungicides going on. This year we have majored on Extase and Skyscraper.

In terms of Milling Wheat are you targeting milling spec or a certain amount of the farm to be milling spec?

We haven’t necessarily grown for the spec. In the past we have applied foliar urea to try and build up the proteins, this year we haven’t done that. If it hits milling spec, it is a bonus and if not, we are still covered.

Is that in light of 2022 and fertiliser costs?

Fertiliser wise we are covered this year. We’re not necessarily looking to grow milling wheat for quality- it is just a variety we have got that works for us.

Across the farm are you doing anything different this season?

Because of the fertiliser pricing we are trying some amide nirtrogen so reducing the amount of synthetic nitrogen down to around 150 kg/ha maybe lower for the wheats and if they need it, we will top it up with foliar feed and the same with barley. The cover cropping should have added some of what we need. We reduced it a little last year, but we are trying to move it down slightly more this year, and using some nutritional products to help get them through.

You are drilling around 30-40kg/ha more than others on drill rate for your Wheat, is that a timing of drilling thing or something you’ve always done on farm?

In comparison to other inputs, seed is fairly cheap and because we are direct drilling we are just increasing the rates a little to negate that potential loss of establishment, it’s trying to get the number of plants there.

You planted some Spring Wheat this year, is that always the approach?

Spring Wheat is not a choice, it was made because we thought we had too much Spring Barley and we thought a Spring Wheat would be an added break, but it never seems to yield well for us, it’s always got Ergot in it. Looks fantastic growing but it is always disappointing. So, Spring Barley is our go-to.

With benefit of hindsight would you have done anything differently across the farm last year?

Could have been warmer in April... perhaps we could have reduced the fungicide rates across a greater area; with it being colder, perhaps there was lower disease pressure. We could have put the nitrogen on a bit earlier because it was fairly dry and it would have been nice to have irrigated some wheat, which would have improved some yields.

But no large scale changes going forward for 2023 Harvest and onwards?

We might grow rape again for next year, but will see how it goes. Very little inputs till Christmas and see whether it is worth carrying on, keeping an eye on the flea beetle pressure. One of our agronomists is sure he can control flea beetle in Rape. It will be a risk though, it’s not a cheap crop to grow. Otherwise focused on improving our regenerative farming approach and keeping the soil healthy.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the agricultural industry going forward?

Fertiliser prices; but they should be offset against what we can get from the crops. Also marketing products and maintaining yield.

Finally, how did you hear about YAGRO?

We first saw YAGRO at CropTec 4 years ago, we looked at it but didn’t do anything about it. Then 2 years ago, again at CropTec we saw the team. My cousin Ed was on the worshipful company of farmers program in 2018 and some of his group had already gone down the YAGRO route. So we decided it would be worth having a look at.

My reasoning for going down YAGRO route was mainly the pricing and making sure that we were buying our chemicals at a competitive rate. I wanted to check we were on the right path with one supplier and making sure there weren't any easy savings to be made - and there were! 

Congratulations to Tom and the team at John Hammond & Co on the phenomenal success of their Milling Wheat.