Yorkshire farmers to try crop trials after New Zealand industry tour

Rodger Hobson, from Crockey Hill, was one of 15 UK farmers who toured New Zealand with BASF.
Rodger Hobson, from Crockey Hill, was one of 15 UK farmers who toured New Zealand with BASF.
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Two Yorkshire farmers are working with agricultural technologies firm BASF to develop ways of increasing their crop yields, following a fact-finding mission to New Zealand.

Rodger Hobson, who farms at Crockey Hill south of York, and Stuart Kirkwood, from the Holderness village of Long Riston near Hull, were among 15 UK farmers who spent two weeks in the Southern Pacific country touring agricultural and exporting businesses with BASF, including the former and current world record holders for wheat yields.

Stuart Kirkwood, of Long Riston, was also on the New Zealand trip.

Stuart Kirkwood, of Long Riston, was also on the New Zealand trip.

Arable farmer Mr Hobson, who is the largest carrot grower in the UK producing over 30,000 tonnes annually, said there were lessons that British farmers should take from their counterparts on the other side of the world.

“Their farming businesses tend to be more set up as corporate structures, so for things like succession and attracting young people this is perhaps an advantage compared to 
small, single farms in the UK,” Mr Hobson said.

Fellow arable farmer, Mr Kirkwood said his highlight from the trip was a visit to Eastpack, a kiwi fruit farm.

“The market for kiwi fruit is booming and was worth NZ$1.66bn in 2017, with exports to more than 50 countries,” he said. “Fruit from Eastpack is sold through a co-operative called Zespri International Limited. I think UK farmers are quite insular in that they like to do things by themselves, and I think as a farming nation we need to be more like New Zealand and practice more co-operative thinking.”

The farmers also learnt about a special type of squash that is being grown in New Zealand for the Japanese market and how the dairy sector was central to the country’s agricultural industry, with growth being driven by demand from China.

Robin Rose, BASF’s agronomy manager, said: “The engagement we got from the farmers we took was incredible. Many of them have come back reinvigorated and said they want to do trials and push yields on their own farms.

“So we are setting up meetings with many of them and their agronomists to look at how we can work together.

“For us, it’s fantastic; like this we can get closer to farmers and find out what their day-to-day challenges are, and what their own specific limitations on yield are.”