Nearly 1,500mm of rain has fallen on average over the past three years at John Moss’s Howton Farm in Pillaton, Saltash in south east Cornwall – considerably more than what he used to consider his annual average of around 1,100mm.

“We’ve had far too much the past three seasons,” he says.

While the biggest problem it has caused has been the almost complete failure to establish winter crops in autumn 2019, the excess rainfall has a much more day-to-day effect on growing wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape and beans on his 440ha farm.

Somerset County Gazette:

“Our biggest challenge is the weather, and with extra rainfall comes disease pressure and the challenge of getting product on time to counteract that”.

Timing disease control products to when disease risk is high, but before crops have been infected is vital for best efficacy and ultimately yield protection.

That’s where working with his agronomist, Mike Dray from the UK’s leading provider of agronomy services, technology and advice, Agrii is crucial. “Mike is integral to our business and has our interests at heart. We regularly sit down and discuss the direction we want to take”.

Mike puts in place his recommendations for managing crops in good time, where possible, John says. “We try and order in advance but there’s always the occasion where you are stuck”.

That is where Agrii’s exceptional logistics service really comes into its own. Chemical is supplied to farms in the south west from two Devon depots, Willand and Plymouth, with Willand also delivering seed and fertiliser to the whole region.

Forecasting tools are used by each depot to predict stocking levels, explains Andy Smith, logistics manager for Willand.

“In addition, we have a computer-automated system which does a sweep of all agronomist recommendations and orders entered by 9.30pm, and anything not in stock will be delivered from our central warehouse in Cambridgeshire on an overnight lorry”.

That arrives in Willand typically by 6.30am and Plymouth at 8.30am. From there an automated routing system maps out the most efficient delivery routes for the depot’s fleet of delivery vehicles, allowing in the vast majority of cases next day delivery on all orders, he says.

“We offer daily delivery service from Monday to Friday and have the capacity to go as and when needed to any farm in the south west, not just on a set day,” Andy says.

Somerset County Gazette: John MossJohn Moss

The service is second to none, John says. “It’s a big strength for Agrii, and a big help to us, especially running a contract crop spraying service.

“Having the product on farm when we need it is paramount because good application timing is of the essence”.

Agrii’s service goes beyond just good logistics, he stresses. “It does extensive research trials around the UK which adds impetus to its recommendations”.

That includes a trials site locally in SE Cornwall. “We’re delighted about that because we are so much wetter than most of the rest of the country. It’s fundamental in helping with product and variety choice”.

Agrii research and discussions with Mike also help fine-tune crop performance on farm, he adds. “We’ve moved to a strip-tillage approach to establishment, so we’re monitoring performance. It’s highlighted that we need to keep an eye on brome grass and broadleaved weeds, so we’re looking closely at that.”

Crop nutrition is another area where there is close collaboration, with both nitrogen fertiliser rate and timing being assessed, and plant tissue tests used to determine whether any other nutrients are lacking.

“It’s important to assess new ideas and techniques to make sure we can continue to grow profitable crops, and our relationship with Mike and Agrii is crucial, ” John concludes.