Towthorpe Manor Farm is an arable and chalk dale farm in the Yorkshire Wolds. Richard Morrell manages the family farm growing winter wheat, winter barley, oil seed rape and winter oats sold to Jordans.
Spring beans are the only spring crop sown at present so skylark plots are put into winter wheat to enhance the skylark population on the farm.
Richard has recently signed up for the Conservation Grade scheme as the farm has an excellent HLS agreement with a range of in field options to support the farmland birds which include tree sparrows, grey partridge, yellow wagtails, skylarks, yellowhammers and barn owls. It is hoped that corn buntings will soon be added to the list. Over-wintered stubbles provide extra food and cover on this exposed Wolds farm.
All of the hedgerows are in ELS enhanced management. Low-input grassland and ELS field corners help to support the barn owls. There is also a healthy population of hares and roe deer. Nest boxes for tree sparrows and barn owls around the farm will provide safe nesting opportunities.
Seed and insect rich mix including triticale, mustard and phacelia is sown for the low profile shoot.
Two chalk dales are included in the HLS agreement due to their important range of wild flowers including clustered bell flower, rock rose, thyme and ladies bedstraw.
Grazing management of the dales is important to enhance the floristic interest for butterflies which include marbled whites so Richard has recently set up herds of both Highland and Belted Galloways to deal with the Tor Grass which is in danger of smothering the wild flowers. In winter the cattle are fed on the bales removed from the nectar mix and floristically enhanced margins. A small flock of breeding ewes is also used to manage the grazing.
Care for the environment is a key part of all areas of farm management. Minimum tillage techniques are used where possible to reduce costs and carbon impact. A move to liquid fertiliser has been made this year to get a definitive cut off between arable crops and prevent contamination of the important habitats. Variable application of nitrogen fertilisers using real time scanning of the crop will be used next spring to ensure that this carbon costly product is used as efficiently as possible. GPS yield maps are created and analysed to monitor response to inputs. Pest thresholds are used to avoid spraying insecticides when possible and where there is a choice the least harmful products are selected. Investment in a weed wiper allows targeted application of herbicides in grassland areas.
“Integrating modern efficient and profitable farming with conservation is where the future is, we can produce food and look after wildlife efficiently” says Richard “I derive a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from seeing the flora and fauna flourishing on the farm. The HLS income is guaranteed which in a volatile commodity market is an important consideration for managing the business”