Meet our Grower, Murray Cooper.
Updated: Feb 10, 2020
We know how our varieties perform in trial but what’s even more important is how they perform on farm, and that’s where our Growers Club comes in.
We would like to introduce one of our Growers Club members, Murray Cooper, who is sharing his insights and experience with some of our varieties.
Ian Cooper & Partners, Mains of Thornton, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire
Area farmed: 280 ha
Soil types: Sandy clay loam
Key crops: Spring barley, winter wheat, winter/spring oats, oilseed rape.
Typical rotation: Grass (4-5 years), 2-3 years of cropping chosen from the above to suit season and field.
Typical cultivations: Plough, disc, sow and roll.
RAGT varieties: Spring barley – RGT Planet (14ha)
Main markets: Organic – seed/feed/oil for various crops
Being an organic grower, Murray looks for durable attributes in his varieties and does his best to ensure they grow away competitively and in the best of health.
All crop residue is ploughed under to reduce weed and disease burdens – a decent length grass break also helps in this regard.
Yield, disease resistance and straw strength are key factors when selecting spring barley. RGT Planet ticks all the boxes and importantly also finds a ready market – Murray grows the crop for seed, and it is his customer’s first choice.
He has grown RGT Planet for several seasons as it out-yielded his previous varieties and there’s nothing that looks significantly better for his situation at the moment.
“RGT Planet yielded well this season producing 5.5-6.9t/ha, despite brackling in areas where some heads were too low to pick up.”
Given its resistance score of 8 for brackling resistance, Murray says this was due to a heavy crop and extreme weather.
When it comes to winter wheat, disease resistance is the number one factor to consider. It’s a similar picture as far as oilseed rape is concerned, though Murray is reluctant to buy a variety bred by a chemical company.
The main problems are common to many organic farmers, namely grass weeds, particularly couch grass, and day nettles. Livestock and high seed rates have been used to date to control these. Spring tine harrows are also used and a System Cameleon was purchased in 2019. Weather has the biggest effect on weed burden. A wet season can be problematic this far north, and the farm’s steep land can cause yield loss when harvesting.
Soils are in good condition, with the lengthy grass break and livestock helping considerably to build fertility. “We soil sample every three years and apply composted FYM, lime, foliar feeds/trace elements and P and K as organic standards allow.”
Murray believes the industry needs to reduce its reliance on agrochemicals, something that may be forced on it by increasing resistance and tougher regulation.
“As far as our own situation is concerned, our aim is to farm as efficiently as possible, chemical free, whilst achieving yields at least on par with conventional."