With UK agriculture facing some of the greatest uncertainty in recent history, arable farmers must get a tighter grip on production costs and crop agronomy in order to remain profitable post-Brexit.
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The UK wine industry is going from strength to strength, with one million vines planted this year and one million planned for next year. According to UK Wine Producers Ltd (UKWP) which was formed this year in July as a result of unifying the UK Vineyards Association and the English Wine Producers, there are now 501 separate vineyards, 2,330 hectares under vines, plus 133 wineries and/or wine producers, producing 5 million bottles of wine in the UK. Chris Cooper, a specialist agronomist for the distributor Hutchinsons is also retained by the UKWP to provide technical support and is well aware of what it takes to grow a successful crop under UK conditions. “Top class agronomy is vital to get the best from the crop and, with many new entrants likely in the future; there is a greater need to offer a professional helping hand throughout the season. The UK industry is said to continue to expand and is said to grow by 50% by 2020. UK growers are taking accolades and prizes with regularity. Hopefully more UK produced wines will be selected for the Christmas season.”
Chris explains that this advice goes back well before the crop is planted. “Planting systems and variety selection are important for the wine to be produced and in the UK the top varieties we grow are Chardonnay (23% of area planted), Pinot Noir (22% of area planted) and Bacchus (8%). “Bacchus is grown almost exclusively in the UK as it suits our growing conditions particularly well. Just as in New Zealand where the Sauvignon Blanc grape transformed the New Zealand wine industry, so Bacchus could do the same for the UK. Another grape variety that has hit the headlines this year is AlbariÅo. This variety is usually associated with wet climate of North West Spain in Galicia. But this year a Chapel Down AlbariÅo wine made from grapes grown in 2014 in Sandhurst, Kent outperformed those of Galicia in a blind wine tasting in Madrid.”
Each month growers need to focus on different aspects of agronomy – pruning in the winter, diseases control, pest control, weed control and nutrition in the spring and summer and harvesting and wine making in the autumn.
“Each season requires expert advice on agronomy, which at Hutchinsons we provide. Keeping up with registrations in vines is challenging enough and I get involved in submitting applications for EAMU’s for the industry which will allow more products to be used in cost-effective grape growing. With potentially many new entrants coming into wine growing, it is a lot more than just deciding to get involved and planting up. There are a lot of technical skills required to make sure that you make the best of what you have got,” says Chris Cooper.
As one of eight young farmers chosen to be ambassadors for British Farming, young farmer and Hutchinsons agronomist Ryan Came-Johnson took part in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London on the 11th November.
Mr Came-Johnson paraded past over half a million people who lined the three mile procession through the City of London as The NFU, the Worshipful Company of Farmers and New Holland joined together to showcase modern farming as a cutting-edge, forward thinking industry.
“I was part of a team that paraded through the city with a New Holland combine harvester and T7.270 tractor. We were there to help spread the #backbritishfarming message and the spectacle of large machinery manoeuvring through the streets of the capital city drew a lot of attention from the public.’’
“What an incredible experience it was, it was so exciting to be part of something so positive for farming. I hope that we have shown to as many young people that there are exciting careers available in agriculture, and that we are leading the way in producing good food for a thriving population, in a sustainable way.”
Ryan was chosen in response to twitter campaign driven by the NFU to find eight young farmers all of who come from different farming backgrounds.
As well as working as a full-time agronomist for Hutchinsons, he holds a farm tenancy with Coodes Estate in Porthleven near Helston, Cornwall, and will be lambing 330 ewes this coming spring.
“I don’t come from a farming background, “he explains, “but after doing a degree in Bioveterinary Science, I wanted a slight change but knew I wanted to work more directly in farming and that’s when I decided to join the Hutchinsons Foundation programme and train as an agronomist, and have been working as an agronomist for five years now.”
“I was then offered the opportunity of taking up the tenancy at Trewithick Farm, and the opportunity to balance my agronomy responsibilities with farming in my own right, and I have never looked back. It gives me a very balanced view of the industry as I see farming from all angles both with my role as an agronomist and also as a farmer.”
“I hope that in taking the path that I have and being in a highly visible situation such as the Lord Mayor’s Show that I can encourage other young people to involve themselves in farming. I am proud to be backing British Farming and all that it stands for.”