JOHN WEIR of Lacesston Farm, in Fife, has claimed the coveted title of Scottish Arable Farmer of the Year at this year’s AgriScot – fending off tough local competition in a nail-biting all-Fife final.

John farms 300 ha where he grows cereals, potatoes and also has a cattle finishing enterprise. The 60 ha of pre-pack potatoes he grows is the main focus of the business and John operates a fairly traditional rotation with the main cereal area (120 ha) down to spring barley, the remainder is sown in winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape and oats.

Regular soil sampling and targeted chemical, lime and fertiliser applications using GPS technology are the norm at Lacesston but the dung from the cattle enterprise is also key to keeping the mainly light soil high in organic matter.

Benchmarking has been a valuable tool to help John control his costs but he has also made good use of a wind turbine and solar panels to reduce potato storage costs and his carbon footprint. John explained: “Software is in place to over-cool the potatoes when we are generating as a means of storing renewable energy. In calm or dull weather the temperatures are allowed to rise until cheaper night electric can be used.”

Receiving his award at AgriScot from cabinet secretary, Fergus Ewing, Mr Weird commented: “I was surprised and honoured to be nominated and did not expect to win. I know the other two finalists well and we are all part of a benchmarking group, so I’m sure the result was very close.”

The other finalists in the category were David Aglen, manager at Balbirnie Home Farms, Freuchie, and Craig Peddie, Cornceres, at Anstruther.

John proved a worthy winner of the award, impressing the judges with his use of resources and renewables. AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds board member, Andrew Moir, was part of the panel: “Lacesston is a family farm which many arable farmers in Scotland can identify with but I believe most could also learn from John. He has a good grip on finances and uses technology and renewables to good advantage.”

Fellow judge and former winner of the award, Donald Ross, agreed: “John is a very canny farmer; every decision is analysed and he understands and controls his costs. It is not the easiest farm to manage, at 400 feet with a relatively high rainfall, but the soils were in very good heart, despite the difficult autumn we have just had.”