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Skyway proves an impressive yielder after ploughing

News - 05.04.24

The agriculture industry is engaged in a profound debate: how to farm sustainably while maintaining profitability.

This dilemma lacks a straightforward solution. Some farmers have embraced practices aligned with their vision of sustainability, departing from traditional techniques. Others, like David Felce of Midloe Grange Farm in Huntingdonshire, have adopted an analytical approach, utilising their best land for cropping while dedicating less productive areas to wildlife conservation.


A Pragmatic Approach from Farmer and Agrii Advisor, David Felce

David Felce's approach is pragmatic. He recognises the productivity of his land and identifies areas less likely to yield substantial crops. Interestingly, these less productive areas coincide with those better suited for wildlife preservation.

Managing 97 hectares of grade 2 clay loam Hanslope series soils, Felce prioritises output maximisation alongside cost efficiency. His strategy revolves around growing crops in a manner that mitigates risk, enhances output, and preserves wildlife habitats.


Data-Driven Decision Making

Felce, a regional technical adviser for Agrii, is meticulous in his decision-making process. Observing the resurgence of direct drilling under the banner of 'regenerative agriculture,' he embarked on a thorough investigation. Leveraging his expertise, he designed a multi-year trial comparing the yields of spring barley following autumn ploughing against those following autumn-sown cover crops.

The results were enlightening. While proponents of reduced tillage practices advocate for improved soil health over time, Felce's trials demonstrated a substantial yield advantage for ploughed land. Despite soil improvement indicators following cover crops, the financial margin favoured ploughing, showcasing the paramount importance of yield in maximising returns.


The Importance of Variety Selection

With cultivation methods settled, Felce turned his attention to variety selection, prioritising those with potential market premiums. Among the notable performers were Crusoe, KWS Extase, and KWS Palladium. However, Skyway, a brewing-approved spring barley, stood out. Delivering excellent returns at 8.9 tonnes per hectare, Skyway's attributes include meeting grain nitrogen requirements, reduced herbicide use, and effective grassweed management.


Midloe Grange Farm: Harvest 2023 crop performance 


Yield (t/ha) 

Grain protein/nitrogen (%) 

Specific weight (kg/hl) 





KWS Extase 




KWS Palladium 










David Felce's journey illustrates the significance of data-driven decision-making in modern agriculture. By meticulously evaluating cultivation practices and variety selection, he optimises output while aligning with sustainability objectives. In navigating the complexities of farming in harmony with the environment, Felce exemplifies the integration of pragmatism, analysis, and innovation.

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