Growers Club member Ian Willox

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

We know how our varieties perform in trials but it’s even more important to see how they perform on farm, and that’s where our Growers Club comes in.

This month we catch up with Lincolnshire grower Ian Willox:

  • CF & IG Willox, Birchwood Farm, Saxilby, Lincolnshire.

  • Area farmed: 200ha of owned and contract-farmed land, plus additional contracting work.

  • Soil types: Blowing sand to clay.

  • Key crops: Winter wheat, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, winter beans, sugar beet, miscanthus.

  • Cultivations: Plough before winter barley and sugar beet. Other cultivations – as required.

  • RAGT varieties: RGT Gravity, RGT Bairstow, RGT Planet.

Despite a less-than-promising forecast when we caught up last week, Ian Willox remains upbeat about prospects this autumn.

Retaining a substantial area of oilseed rape helped this season’s drilling programme get off to a flying start at Birchwood Farm.

“We kept going with oilseed rape last year, although my son says we got lucky!” says Ian. “It averaged 1.5t/acre so we’ve decided to sow it again this season.

“Our rapeseed goes into a pool, so I can’t say we sold it all at £500/t, but we’ve been paid well over half that already, so hopefully there will be quite a bit of improvement on that.

“We put this season’s crop into our two strongest fields and most of it looks good, apart from 10 acres which I was unable to roll due to rain. You can see to a mark where I stopped – it looks a bit ropey.”

Ian intends to grow more winter barley ahead of OSR so he can make an earlier start in future to speed up early growth. “We’ve not seen too much flea beetle but it's going to remain a threat.”

The barley was drilled with a combi-drill at the beginning of October into ploughed land to control wheat volunteers, and the crop is now showing in the row.

Wheat drilling started on 13 October using a Simba Miniflow drill direct into OSR stubble and after a pig-tail drag on bean ground.

The drilled wheat includes a 12ha block of RGT Bairstow, RAGT’s new high yielding feed wheat with excellent all-round disease resistance.

“It looks to be an interesting variety, and this season should provide a fair test,” says Ian. “It went in well and, given the poor forecast, we applied a pre-emergence stack immediately after drilling, followed by Avadex.”

Ian is sticking with RGT Gravity again this year, with 8ha earmarked for the variety. “It’s been very good for us, producing 3.5t/acre, perhaps a bit more, last season.

“Agronomically I like it – It’s an easy variety to grow and seems to be consistent. It’s no good having a variety that produced excellent yields one year but half as much the next.”

With plenty of local outlets that want feed wheat, growing a mix of hard and soft wheats is not a problem.

“Growing a Group 3 would be an option, but that’s OK of you know you are going to get the premium. If is a load is redirected, that premium soon disappears up the road.”

Apart from the RGT Gravity, Ian has 12ha of winter beans to sow on the home farm and a further 89ha of contract drilling for a neighbour.

“About 10 days should see us finished,” says Ian. “We’re in a lot better position than two years ago when we had a terrible autumn and drilled almost nothing.

“The rotation is back where it should be and we made an earlier start this year, but not rushed it. We do have some blackgrass, but it’s a means to an end, and we’ve been timely with our herbicides.

“We’ll know next June whether we got it right.”

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