Meet new Growers Club member Rob Ramsay

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.

New Growers Club member Rob Ramsay is looking forward to sharing his insights and experience with some of our varieties.

  • R B Ramsay & Sons West Gate Farm, Scotton, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

  • Area farmed: 235ha

  • Soil types: Blowing sand, sandy and medium loams, some heavier outcrops

  • Key crops: Winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, spring beans

  • Typical rotation: Split 50% wheat/50% breaks

  • Main cultivations: Shallow min till, minimal subsoiling

  • RAGT varieties: RGT Saki, RGT Bairstow

Rob Ramsay farms in partnership with his brother Andy, growing soft wheats for local homes and oilseed rape and beans as breaks across 230 ha of mixed but mainly light soils from West Gate Farm near Gainsborough.

It’s a simple but effective rotation that minimises machinery spend and spreads drilling and harvest, whilst keeping problem grassweeds, mainly blackgrass, at low levels.

“Spring beans help with blackgrass, giving us a good overwinter break so we can drill into clean stubble,” says Rob. “We can also give the blackgrass a good hit with propyzamide in the oilseed rape.

“Blackgrass is not a big problem and we want to keep it that way. We have a bit of brome, and a few broadleaved weeds such as poppy and cranesbill, but nothing too serious.”

The aim is to treat soils with a light touch. Cultivations usually involve a shallow pass with a Simba SL 400 (disc/tine/disc and DD packer). Tines are kept as shallow as possible, usually around 7-8cm, deepened only where necessary. Subsoiling is kept to a minimum.

Sowing is carried out with a Kuhn Megant 600 tine drill. “We bought it to ensure we could get beans into the ground – we’ve just brought them back into the rotation so we can grow all first wheats, but the drill suits the other crops very well too,” says Rob.

Oilseed rape remains a key break. Drilling in the first week of September after the main flea beetle migration has occurred appears to be working, with this season’s crop now at the four to six-leaf stage.

“Some early drilled crops around here are already knee-high, which is an awful lot of crop to manage. We prefer to go later, which is just as well as we don’t grow barley to give us an early entry.

“Whether this will help us get on top of flea beetle remains to be seen. We apply digestate to the crop which certainly helps it get away, especially when drilled into moisture.”

Feed wheat used to be the farm’s mainstay. “We tried to chase big yields, but our soils just aren’t up to it. We read about 5-6t/acre crops and dream, but the reality is we need to play to our strengths.

“We have several homes near us that want soft wheats and we’ve found that works very well. We aim for 3.5-4t/acre and pick up £8-10/t premiums while keeping haulage costs and rejections risks to a minimum. We’re happy with that.”

RGT Saki is being grown for the second year and was drilled by mid October, along with the rest of the wheats. “We liked the look of it last year - it produced some very good looking grain and it combined very well.”

The variety stood toe to toe with Skyscraper, which has been the farm’s benchmark, and Spotlight. RGT Saki has the advantage of being the most resistant variety to septoria in the soft Group 4 sector, receiving a new three-year rating of 5.9 this season, a full point ahead of Skyscraper and 0.8 ahead of Spotlight.

“We look for varieties that are straightforward to manage. We tend to treat them the same, applying a fairly comprehensive fungicide programme,” says Rob.

The brothers are also trying RGT Bairstow, a new Group 4 wheat with very strong Septoria tritici resistance coupled with barn-filling yields of good quality grain, which is up for recommendation this year. The variety is also resistant to orange wheat blossom midge and is building a reputation as a consistent performer.

“We’ve drilled about 5ha this season,” says Rob. “The variety sounds like RGT Saki but a bit more robust. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Being an independent agronomist as well as a farmer gives Rob a good insight into which varieties are is doing well in the area, and to pick up and discuss fresh ideas with his clients.

It’s not just crops that are occupying the partners’ mind. Like many growers, the brothers are waiting to see what options will suit them best under ELMS.

“The BPS payment is falling fast. It used to cover our rent but no longer, so we’re raking through the paperwork to see what we will do.

“We’ve planted wild bird cover in some field corners, and that’s valuable, but we will have to look at bigger schemes, perhaps using these to replace cropping on other less productive areas on the light land.

“I quite like the idea of net zero and doing something that helps. But we can’t lose sight that we still need to feed people. A lot of good land is already going out of production under housing and new infrastructure projects.

“When you hear about how many trees government want to plant, you have to wonder at it all. Perhaps we need a bit more science and fewer bandwagons to make sure we make the right choices.”

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