SCOTLAND'S Strategic Cereal Farm is to open its gates to visitors for the first time since the project began two years ago.

On Wednesday June 29, there will be a tour of the trial sites at Treaton farm, Fife KY7 6LJ, part of Balbirnie Home Farms, Fife, the host of the AHDB research programme.

Host David Aglen, farms manager at Balbirnie, explained: “We joined the Strategic Farm network not long before the start of the pandemic so we could only use the virtual world to introduce the farm and our research objectives. This resulted in a series of films and webinars to showcase what we have been doing and report on the results of the initial trials.

"We are looking forward to finally being able to show people around the trial sites in person and engage directly with our peers about what we have learned from the work that has been done so far, and what is still to come.”

The open day kicks off at 1pm with an introduction by AHDB knowledge transfer manager Fiona Geary. She said: “Our Strategic Cereal Farms put cutting-edge research and innovation into practice on commercial farms around the UK. The open day at Balbirnie Home Farms gives us the opportunity to provide an overview of the trials being carried out in Scotland alongside AHDB’s network of Strategic Cereal Farms, in the east, west and south of England and I hope many of our cereals and oilseeds levy payers in Scotland will be able to attend.”

Mr Aglen, will provide an overview of the farm, including its constraints and goals, and explain its role in conducting a series of trials carried out under Scottish growing conditions which will help develop a strategy toward environmental and economic resilience. It is hoped that sharing the farm’s findings will give other farmers the confidence to make decisions by using similar approaches, and data to determine viable options and inform their decisions.

Head of Connect for Impact at SRUC, Fiona Burnett, has been working closely with Mr Aglen and AHDB on the trials programme and will discuss the activity that has been taking place along with the preliminary results. This will cover:

  • Using cover crops ahead of direct drilled spring barley, comparing different destruction methods. Assessments include soil, biodiversity, and spring barley crop development;
  • Sowing dates for direct drilled spring barley establishment, measuring conditions such as soil moisture and temperature at different drilling dates;
  • Comparing nitrogen application methods to improve nitrogen use efficiency;
  • Testing a crop throughout the season and adjusting the nutrition accordingly to see if it improves crop health enough to withstand pest/disease in the absence of pesticides.

The afternoon will include a series of ‘how to' sessions run by guest experts focussing on each of the current trials. These include a session looking at how to carry out a Brix test as an indication of photosynthetic activity and how this result may correlate with crop health; a look at the cover crop and spring barley drill date trials with a practical session on how to carry out infiltration and soil structure assessments; and a session on how to carry out biodiversity assessments on-farm to contribute to an effective IPM strategy.

The open day concludes with a panel session featuring the speakers involved in the trials and demonstrations and will bring together the environmental and IPM strategies trialled on the farm; with a discussion on the future of farming, the environment, and how to produce food more sustainably.

There will be lots of time for questions. Everyone is then invited to stay and take advantage of the on-site catering and catch up with everyone attending. Please register in advance at