Creating a Crock of Gold

13th June 2011

Arable farmers in the North East who are facing spiralling production costs, will welcome today’s announcement by George F. White, that their second Farming Forum in collaboration with The University of Newcastle upon Tyne will focus on the very latest thinking on crop management. These seasonal forums believed to be the first events of their kind in the UK – give farmers tangible practical advice alongside access to world class cutting edge research from one of the UK’s foremost centres of agricultural excellence.

Speakers at this event being held at Darlington Rugby Club on Tuesday 28th June at 6.00pm will include Dr. Rob Shiel from The University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and Clive Blacker Director – Precision Decisions Ltd. Open to all farmers, these will be hugely useful and technical presentations that will have a direct application to arable farming businesses.

Andrew Entwistle Partner of George F. White and a former Newcastle Univeristy student explains some of the background: “We received excellent feedback from our first event held in March and have specifically chosen the focus – arable crop management as it is such an important topic, given the economic and climatic challenges facing UK farmers at present. I would urge anyone who is interested in both maintaining and improving the performance of their arable land to attend.”

Dr. Rob Shiel an expert in the field of precision farming research has been involved in farming and horticulture in Britain and the USA for most of his career. He has spent all of his life specialising in managing long term changes in the soil as a result of its use and the improvement of soil fertility at minimum cost. Ironically, for a university renowned for its scientific research, he will be very much advocating a return to basics. With farmers now finding the spiralling costs of fertiliser a real hindrance to their businesses, in his down to earth style he will be looking at reviving some traditional alternatives.

He expands, “In recent years, farmers have increasingly relied on adding artificial fertilisers as a way of managing crops but good soil management is much more than just adding these elements. With their costs going through the roof, farmers need to rethink how they provide these nutrients. Once the mainstay of farms across the country, they may once again need to consider applying animal manure. It’s cheap and effective and readily available and for those with a mixed farm or a livestock farm nearby, it’s a very effective way of turning a waste into a crock of gold.”

Clive Blacker – Precision Decisions Ltd will be using his practical and agronomic knowledge to advise on precision farming issues for arable farms. Clive has been involved with Precision Farming for over 15 years now and was one of the first in the country to use the Yara N Sensor. In 2004 his Nuffield Scholarship on Precison Farming, took him through Australia and the U.S.A. His keen enthusiasm and vast knowledge lead him to diversify away from the family farm and start his own business helping farmers around the UK with precision farming techniques and applications. Precision Decisions Ltd has grown rapidly, and now prides itself in being at the leading edge of PF and a one stop shop for PF. He will give a brief history of GPS development and outline the advantages of using GPS systems for small to large farm applications.

To finish the evening Andrew Entwistle, Partner and Head of Valuation at George F. White will give some pointed tips on finance and how to make sense of the vast range of loan packages available from various lending institutions. He says, “Farm finance is often a necessity but also can be an advantage in minimising tax liability and being able to compare different offerings leads to informed and profitable decisions.”

Newcastle University is a centre of excellence for research for agriculture and the rural environment and is one of the few universities with active research farms in the region of 800 hectares. Their aim is to be involved rural issues in the region at a practical level and its close working relationship with George F. White is a perfect way to disseminate its research to wider audience.

Its expertise extends from ‘farm to fork’ covering food security, crop production systems, animal production systems, food quality and safety, the rural environment, rural society, agricultural economics and agri-business. The faculty has two research farms at Nafferton and Cockle Park and includes The Centre for Rural Economy which hosts the £25 million Rural Economy and Land Use research programme, The Nafferton Ecological Farming Group which aims to improve organic and low-input food production systems and The Centre for Renewable Energy from Land translating bio-energy technology into viable commercial applications.

The second Farming Forum is at 6.00pm on 28th June at Darlington Rugby Club and will be followed by a pie and pea supper at 7.30pm. The event is free to attend but places should be reserved in advance by contacting Paul Young on 01665 600164 or email

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