Case Study - John Gatenby, Bridlington

10 February 2016

Name: John Gatenby

Region: East Yorkshire

Farm: Littlethorpe, near Rudston, Bridlington

Size: 600acres


Littlethorpe is a mixed farm situated on the north side of the Yorkshire Wolds near the village of Rudston. John returned to run the family farm 35 years ago after graduating from Wye College.

John grows wheat and barley for seed, a field of barley for arable silage, maize, grass and cover crops including mustard and rye.

He also fattens holsteins and has around 600 cattle on the farm which are fed on by-products from the food industry or ‘bio‑recycling’.

The soil type at Littlethorpe is mainly typical Yorkshire Wolds soil; very shallow over gravel but around 15% to 20% of the soil is not sandy or shallow.

The farm has been in an NVZ since 1998.

What environmental management do you undertake on your farm?

We are in ELS but not HLS as I was uncertain of the economic climate over 10 years.

We have lots of 6 metre margins on grass adjacent to watercourses andwe have no spray or fertiliser margins on grazed grass.

We have tramlined grasses on the grazed grasses away from home but the grass at home is normal as is the temporary grass.

What voluntary environmental measures do you undertake?

I do grow winter cover crops. I have around 50 acres of mustard, 50 acres of stubble turnips and 55 acres of rye prior to carrots or maize.

I also have 16 metre headlands of grass on the irrigated potato crops. I rent out land to potato growers and they do not have a problem with this. It means they can turn on them and run the irrigators over them and it seems to work.

I use a numatic spreader as well that helps to protect hedges and watercourses.

I’ve been involved with voluntary farmland bird surveys as well. Interestingly we’ve found Oyster Catchers breeding five miles inland because of the potato irrigation.

How are you contributing towards the Voluntary Initiative/crop protection management?

We are in a farm assurance scheme so that meets the needs of a lot of the voluntary initiative asks.

Because I grow cereals for seed I can’t be as environmentally‑conscious as I would like to be as you have to keep the quality high. I look at production first then the environment.

What measures are you taking towards Nutrient Management?

I have BASIS and FACTS and I’m Nutrient Management Planning qualified as well. I do regular soil sampling on the farm and I don’t use any P and K as there is no need to.

How do you manage your soils?

All of the land is ploughed, predominantly to bury residues. I use organic manures and catch crops as well that are sprinkled lightly on the surface.

We use our own muck as much as we can but we have some on a muck for straw arrangement as we have to bring some straw in to meet the needs of the cattle.

You grow 40 acres of maize, how do you manage your soils where this is grown?

Maize has a massive effect on the soil and I mitigate this by burying it. The day after it has been harvested, I plough, press and drill it. I don't use a cultivator or beat the soil into submission. I also use large tyres so I can float over it!

Everything is down to soil structure and you need to enhance soil organic matter to get a good root structure. I believe the soil should be doing something for most of the year and thatis why I grow winter cover crops.

Why do you support the work of CFE?

In farming we have to head towards a targeted approach and a carrot rather than stick approach.

If we can show on a voluntary basis to organisations that we can get it right ourselves and avoid legislation then we’re going the right way.

What would you say to encourage other farmers to play their part in CFE?

It’s now rolled over to cover livestock and it would be good to get more grassland farmers involved.

We need to persuade people to do what suits their farm type before getting a blanket piece of legislation imposed on farmers that does not suit people.

Before we had the threat of compulsory pesticide regulation and the threat of set‑aside.

CFE needs to keep talking to groups on an informal basis as it works.

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