Combinable organic protein crops for livestock

This field lab is investigating various organic, combinable protein crops including lupins and soya, specifically for use as livestock feed.

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Field Lab Timeline

    12/8/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • First Meeting

    First Meeting
  • 1/23/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • Second Meeting

    Second Meeting
  • 2/28/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • Coordinator, researcher & support meeting

    Coordinator, researcher & support meeting
  • 3/9/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • Third meeting

    Third meeting
  • 3/14/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • Methods Agreed

    Methods Agreed
  • 4/7/2017 11:00:00 PM
  • Start of trial - seeds drilled

    Start of trial - seeds drilled
  • 4/29/2017 11:00:00 PM
  • Funding application completed

    Funding application completed
  • 5/31/2017 11:00:00 PM
  • Monitoring of trial

    Monitoring of trial
  • 7/9/2017 11:00:00 PM
  • Progress review

    Progress review
  • 9/9/2017 11:00:00 PM
  • Harvest & mid-trial review

    Harvest & mid-trial review
  • 9/10/2017 11:00:00 PM
  • Harvesting

  • 12/18/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • End of first year review

    End of first year review
  • 2/5/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Second year methods agreed

    Second year methods agreed
  • 4/5/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Preparation for second trials

    Preparation for second trials
  • 4/15/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Start of second year lupin drill

    Start of second year lupin drill
  • 5/22/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Media interest

    Media interest
  • 5/27/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Lupin establishment count

    Lupin establishment count
  • 6/10/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Second year progress review

    Second year progress review
  • 6/25/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Lupin growth review

    Lupin growth review
  • 8/19/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Lupin harvest

    Lupin harvest
  • 9/9/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Second year harvest review

    Second year harvest review
  • 11/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Conclusions

For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

    To see the latest activity please log-in (group members only).

  • Achievements

    November 2018

    A blueprint for growing lupins

    Based on the results from Year 1 and 2 of this field lab, an organic farmers guide to growing blue lupins has been put produced by Mole Valley Farmers. As well as a summary of the key lessons learnt from the trials, sections include information on seedbed, drilling, harvest, varieties and a lupin agronomy guide.

    See the field lab documents section on the top right of the page and log in for free to read the full guide.

    Milestone: Conclusions

    October 2018

    Considerations for further trialling

    Weeds in the second / later stage of growth was an issue for most of the triallists. The researcher has had experience with successfully under-sowing other crops with low-growing species to help out-compete weeds in this stage, and the group are considering possibilities of under-sowing either before direct drilling or after establishment with trefoil or crimson clover if a third year of trials are to progress.

    They are also considering increasing the seed rate - where Farmer B ended up using a smaller plot size and therefore a higher seed rate, the yield seemed to be higher. The researcher also has experience with higher seed rates and has advised sowing at 10 -15% above the standard rate.

    The triallists are also looking to work with suppliers to form a market for lupins, as currently this doesn't exist. In order to invest more time and larger trial plots they need some reassurances that this will be possible in the future.

    The group will meet again over winter to discuss the potential of the trial going forward, and whether some will continue growing lupins what they have learnt in the field lab.

    Milestone: Second year progress review

    October 2018

    Triallist lupin yields

    Farmer A's plots grew quite well as with the first year, however he wasn't able to separate the varieties due to an early and rushed harvest. The combined lupin varieties came in at 1 t/ha, with the bean controls lower than this. The lupins had strong stems compared to the beans, which got blown down during stormy August weather. He lost a significant area of the plot to rabbits, but there wasn't any weed problems, which he thinks may be due to only min-tilling this plot (although the other triallists did not try this).

    Farmer B had a good establishment, however the lupins had to be harvested slightly earlier than planned as fat-hen weeds started to take over in the second growth stage. The hoeing was successful in keeping the weeds down at the initial establishment stage. He was the only farmer to be able to separately combine the varieties and the Iris yielded 1.25 t/ha and the Regent 1.13 t /ha.

    Farmer C had a poor yield which the group think may be due to the seed bed preparation. Looking back on photos from this, the soil looks more lumpy and cloddy than others, and the drilling depth may have been too deep. This Farmer discussed this with another of the triallists and will go and visit his sites to compare and discuss further.

    Farmer D's plots of lupins unfortunately failed in both years, and he is working with the group to identify why this is. As the weather has been so extreme for both years, he is still keen to carry on but wants to understand why it has failed first. If this can't be done, he will likely participate in further trials as an observer and carry on learning from the group.

    Farmer E's lupins died off early in July during the drought as he has very sandy soil. He harvested and was able to get a weight off half of the field. He has previous experience in growing lupins will be growing them on a larger scale next year.

    Farm G didn't have much success this year, where weeds were a problem, he is keen to try again however.

    Milestone: Second year progress review

    October 2018

    Year 2 Results

    The last two years have been very different in weather patterns causing quite different results in how the lupins have established and yield.

    Due to the dry year and on average a 6 week earlier crop harvest than the previous year, all but one of the triallists combined all three varieties together, instead of separating them. One triallist harvested the crop as early as late July, the others in late August. This means that the weights and yields are combined and it has been difficult to evaluate which variety performed best. The Haegs Blaue ripened too soon likely becuase of the dry summer.

    Despite this, the group feel that the new variety grown, Iris, looked better whilst growing than the others. Although there was generally poor establishment across the sites, the coordinator managed to get 4 out of 5 yields. As the plots were difficult to harvest by individual varieties, it would be better to grow them on a larger scale with replicated plots next time. The coordinator noted that he thought the Iris and Regent varieties that were grown in a plot together seemed to perform well.

    On average across the sites the lupins were 0.8 t /ha and the control beans were 1.2 t/ha. Last year the average for lupins had been 3 t/ha, and so the group were hoping for an average of 2 t/ha considering the dry summer. The group are considering how they can overcome second-stage growth weeds after successfully getting them through the establishment by hoeing.

    Milestone: Second year progress review

    August 2018

    Start of lupin harvest

    The dry summer appears to have influenced the harvesting of this year's lupins, which took place in September last year.

    Farmer E's trial of 20 acres of lupins on light soil died off in July due to the dry weather. He managed to combine 7 acres of mostly of the Iris variety and in total he harvested 3 t. Despite this he is still keen to grow again next year, with some incentive from lupin buyers.

    The other triallists' lupins are currently undergoing harvest and the group will meet to discuss the analysed results soon.

    Milestone: Lupin harvest

    July 2018

    Countryfile interview

    The trial recently appeared on Countryfile, where Adam Henson interviewed one of the triallists at his farm in Devon.

    Milestone: Media interest

    June 2018

    Triallists observations

    Triallists have recently been in contact to say that the lupins have begun flowering. Despite this, on some sites their growth and development is being hampered by the long spell of hot and dry weather - quite the opposite of how the growing season began. Triallists are hoping for rain to help the lupins start growing faster.

    One triallist noted the following:
    "The seedbed needed to be a bit finer, it was rolled with a cambridge after drilling. Follows Mustard cover crop killed by frost. Spring ploughed to hide 75% seedling dock cover. Very weedy patch. Fat Hen, Bindweed, Charlock, Chickweed, Red Nettle.
    Both Lupins here are closing across the rows.

    Just had hoeing number five, the last for this year, I think. The lupins are up to 14 inches tall, now, with no sign of flowering yet.

    I am pleased with our stand, here. It looks like a proper commercial crop, quite clean and even, apart from a streak across the field of a very thick annual weed seed germination. But, I think the weeds, present in the row, will not be a disaster."

    Milestone: Lupin growth review

    May 2018

    Coordinator observations

    The coordinator recently got in contact to share the following observations:

    Weather; Although the weather has been kinder than last year with enough moisture in the seedbeds for a good germination and initial growth, the dry start to May has slowed things down a bit. The weather in March and early April may have made delayed drilling a little but the major effect was that everyone was delayed with seedbed preparation and I don’t think anyone was able to cultivate false fallows pre drilling to reduce weed population.

    One site near Taunton may have had the advantage that the trial plot area was not ploughed maybe reducing weed seedlings but the farmer feels that the crops on the fields he did plough are now growing more strongly.

    Variety; The triallists have noticed the difference in colour of the Iris leaves which may have made the crop appear more sparse but close to visually the plants look stronger. The Haegs Blaue look a bit weaker but we will have to wait to see if it is an earlier maturing crop. The plant counts would suggest the site has more effect than the variety but which aspect of the site isn’t obvious.

    Milestone: Second year progress review

    May 2018

    Lupin establishment

    With an improvement towards drier weather, all triallists have drilled their lupins which are now well on their way to becoming established. The coordinator has been to the trial sites to quadrat count the number of lupins and control beans that are growing. He is confident that establishment is better than last year, although none of the sites have reached the target number.

    The establishment rate results from the triallists are as follows:

    Target establishment %
    Regent 110
    Iris 80
    Mix 100
    Haegs Blaue 110
    Beans 55

    Farm A:
    Regent 74
    Iris 98
    Mix 109
    Haegs Blaue 88
    Beans 68

    Farm B:
    Regent 74
    Iris 66
    Mix 76
    Haegs Blaue 66
    Beans 30

    Farm C:
    Regent 40
    Iris 38
    Mix N/A
    Haegs Blaue 54
    Beans 25

    Farm D:
    Regent 40
    Iris 50
    Mix 42
    Haegs Blaue 46
    Beans 35

    Farm E:
    Regent 67
    Iris 71
    Mix 69
    Haegs Blaue 67
    Beans 35

    Average establishment % across the sites
    Regent 59
    Iris 65
    Mix 74
    Haegs Blaue 64
    Beans 39

    Milestone: Lupin establishment count

    May 2018

    Media impact

    BBC Points West and Farming Today recently came on-farm to one of the triallists to film the establishment of the lupins and the process of quadrat counting these new shoots in the trial area. The triallist, coordinator and Innovative Farmers representative were filmed talking about the trial, the current need for organic livestock feed to be produced in the UK, and the need for farmer-led innovation support such as the IF programme.

    Milestone: Media interest

    April 2018

    Triallist weather observations

    Two of the triallists have been in contact to update on the condition of their farms pre-soil bed prepping and lupin drilling:

    "Continuous wet conditions since last October has prevented any ploughing or cultivating. Could, only, subsoil out the lime-spreader tracks in February, in the frost. Failed to drill winter beans in Oct/Nov, so now hoping to drill these before the end of April.

    We need at least a week of no rain, now, to be able to plough the trials area.

    It looks like a late-ish Lupin drilling here, probably 3rd week April, but we shall not be short of soil moisture! (initially)

    Hope to have an interesting season here."

    In response, to this another triallist echoed similar conditions:

    "Would it be possible to swap the Lupins for rice, I have 1700 acres of paddy fields ready for planting now!"

    We have our fingers crossed that the weather will improve over the coming weeks for these farmers. It has begun a very different growing season to last year, which saw very dry conditions and a difficult emergence for the lupins.

    Milestone: Preparation for second trials

    April 2018

    Preparation ahead of trials beginning

    An update from the group coordinator:

    "To date, all sites should be ploughed and although after the last snow I measured soil temperatures of 1.5C, by the end of last week in mid afternoon soil temperatures at the Yeovil site were 6C at 5” depth and 8C at 2”depth and bean planting was about to get underway. I would hope for soil temperatures of 7-8C for the lupins to get away and without the thick seed coat of the bean they don’t want to be drilled into cold wet ground. However this is academic at present as we are still waiting for some lupin seed to arrive from Germany. I have received a half tonne bag of organic bean seed and look forward to bagging it off for delivery to farm. We are already experiencing a very different weather pattern from last year but I am confident we have learnt enough to be much more successful this year."

    The plots will have three varieties of Blue Lupin:

    Regent - a determinate variety which we grew last year,
    Iris - a semi determinate to see if a better cover will discourage weeds,
    Haegs Blaue - an earlier maturing determinate variety,
    A mixed plot of Iris and Regent and field beans as a control.

    Two of the five sites will be using an inter-row hoe. Two farms are also doing single variety trials.

    Milestone: Preparation for second trials

    February 2018

    Second year methods agreed

    The group coordinator has spoken individually to the triallists for the second year to agree and confirm the methods. Each triallist has agreed a trial area, mainly ranging from 1 - 2 hectares, a scaling up of last year's initial test.

    There will be two new triallist's also taking part in Devon and Dorset. One of these farmers grew lupins last year to feed his lambs, and was planning to grow them again this year, and is keen to be part of the trial.

    The group plans to meet again around late May to look at germination of the lupins. This meeting may be held at one of the new triallist's farms and the group hope to hear more on the experience of the farmer who has grown before.

    Please log in and see the attached 'Field Lab Documents' page for full details of the second year of trial methods.

    Milestone: Second year methods agreed

    December 2017

    Irish lupins

    At the results review, an Irish farmer joined to share a presentation about his experience in growing lupins in the South of Ireland (please download from the Field Lab Documents). This farmer contacted Nigel after hearing about the Field Lab, and was keen to learn more. The farming group learned a lot from this presentation, including information that they can utilise for next year's trials.

    He related his key points for farming lupins:

    Soil is min-tilled with Lemken cultivator, 2-3 stale seedbeds with discs and drilled with one-pass machine with disc coulters

    All crops are spring drilled following winter cover-crops

    Lupins are drilled at 12.5cm spaces 5cm deep at 50-55 kg/acre

    Rolled behind drill if ground is dry but never overlapping

    Drilling is when ground is 8.5 degrees, 17 April in 2017 (after mid-April weeds may germinate more)

    Varieties are Iris and Regent but prefers iris because it is more competitive - farmers from the group are thinking of trialling these two varieties next year - they have different growth structures (determinate and indeterminate). The determinate varieties branch more and are more competitive on weeds. A mixture of the 2 is possible.

    Lupins are always inoculates as it is cheap

    The average yield in last 3 years is 2.5-3.1t/ha

    Wet weather at ripening can cause regrowth but combine settings can deal with these green lupins, so these are not an issue.

    He feels that any weeding passes will cause uneven and delayed ripening and so he trusts his stale seedbeds and plant competition. East-west shading will also delay ripening and so he will whole crop or combine later.

    Bird problems at germination are reduced by drilling whole farm at the same time.

    This farmer is interested in soil microbiology and feels that lupins are a great feed for the mycorrhiza fungi that are an important part of the soil biota.

    Milestone: End of first year review

    December 2017

    2017 Results review

    The trial's researcher Hannah Jones produced a report comparing the year's harvest results, soil data and economic considerations against 10 years worth of climate data for the region.

    At both Yeovilton and Hurn weather stations, April 2017 showed as significantly drier than the last 10 years - suggesting that this may have had a strong influence on the establishment of the lupin and companion crops. Establishment was down to 10% of the planned plant population in the worst case, and was also then followed by rooks, rabbits and deer grazing. This resulted in only 5 trials reaching harvest. Despite research knowledge on soil pH or fertility having an effect on lupins, there appeared to be no effect based on results obtained.

    Two trials were combined producing 3.2 t/ha at the Blandford site and 4.24 t/ha at Bridgets farm. A control bean crop produced 3 t/ha. From an economic view-point these yields produced an economic yield the equivalent of 4t and 6 t/ha of Milling Wheat. Although samples were quality tested, high moisture content of lupins made results unscientific but all tests showed protein levels higher than the normal for beans.

    A hand harvested crop produced yields of 5.49 t/ha and 3.42 t/ha but contained many green lupins which would not have been collected in a combine.

    Despite this year's results, farmers are keen to continue trials by adjusting them with the knowledge they have gained from this year. This second year of trialling will aim to prove the viability of growing lupins at these sites by achieving a harvestable, consistent yield. The group will also aim to understand differences in soil effects at each site.

    Only blue lupins will be grown, seed rate and a comparison of hoeing methods will be looked in to. Beans will be used as a control. The farmers will have larger trial areas of at least 1 ha each, and all farms to have easy access to a combine and ideal a drier or crimper.

    Milestone: End of first year review

    September 2017

    Mid-harvest meeting

    Members of the group met again at a triallist's farm in Blandford, Dorset. Nigel had been to some of the plots that were unfortunately not able to be combined, and instead hand harvested and threshed the lupins, which were brought to the meeting.

    Nigel recapped on the trial so far and the challenges observed. The group then went to the farm's trial plot to observe both blue and white lupins. The blues were drying well on their stalks, however the whites were still far off and only just beginning to dry. David (seed supplier) suggested that this may be due to the lack of a hot spell in August, which would usually kick start the senesce process. This will be a harvesting issue and therefore there have been some preliminary decisions not to trial white lupins again next year. The plot of vetch looked strong, but not ready to harvest. David advised that vetch is sown in winter in order to be harvested earlier. There will be more discussions on growing vetch next year, and whether it could also be viable as a feed crop (...)

    Milestone: Harvest & mid-trial review

    September 2017

    Mid-harvest review continued

    (...) Despite the difficulties of this year, all triallists who attended this meeting are keen to trial again. They feel that one year is not enough evidence and it has been a particularly hard year with the weather (dry spring & wet harvest). Several farmers would also like to try expanding the trial plots and growing lupins more densely without barley or peas.

    The group are considering an idea of putting in clover one month prior to drilling the lupins in order to better prepare the seed bed. Nigel thinks that establishment was a key problem with lupins that did not grow well this year, and has emphasised preparing the seed bed to allow warmer, moister conditions. This spring had been particularly dry and seems to have been unsuitable for establishment.

    In particular, one of the triallist's blue lupins had only grown to a couple of inches, he thought this may have been because of a lack of soil nutrients or the wrong pH for the lupins. Yield and soil data will be analysed where possible to see if a trend is apparent. Others speculated that it may have been due to poor establishment from weather stresses.

    It was also suggested that lupins were direct drilled into green manures that had been mulched (thoughts were that this works well in America). However, many farmers expressed concern over the amount of slugs that this would bring, and therefore would prefer to try sowing clover one month prior to lupins.

    Milestone: Harvest & mid-trial review

    September 2017

    Hand harvesting

    Due to the inability to combine some of the lupin plots, Nigel visited some of the sites to hand harvest and thresh the lupins. Although not practical on a large scale, this does provide some evidence for what the yield of these trial plots are. These results can also be projected to estimate what yields could be if the lupins had established better and if they are grown on a larger scale.

    Milestone: Harvesting

    September 2017

    Preliminary triallist lupin harvest

    One triallist preliminarily swathed some lupins to see whether the whole trial plot could be harvested. However, he reported that the stems were still green and not yet ready to be fully harvested. He also noted that the yield was similar to that of the beans.

    Milestone: Harvesting

    August 2017

    Pre-harvest meeting

    The group met at one of the triallist's farms near Taunton to look at the lupins progress and discuss how to harvest. Nigel gave a good overview of the progress of all the trial plots he'd visited so far (all but two of the farms) and compared their progress.

    Despite all of the white lupins initially contracting anthracnose, they appeared to have recovered well, and there appears to be varying degrees of success on each farm. At the meeting, a walk around the trial plot revealed that the lupins did look to have a fairly decent crop, despite the weeds (incl. redshank) also looking strong. These had been topped so that the lupins were more visible. The control plot of beans had done very well, but peas less so.

    During discussion, the triallists were starting to come to conclusions and planning out outlines of how next year's trial might take shape. All agreed that it had been a bad year with a very dry spring and is looking to be a wet harvest, although there still appeared to be some crop. Questions arose to the possibility of a significant amount of lupins being lost in the combine and how to factor this in. As an insurance against not being able to harvest, Nigel suggested that he may take quadrat samples.

    Thoughts for next year's trial included growing only lupins (barley and vetch have swamped the lupins, whilst peas have not kept back weeds). Some triallists were also keen to try this out on a much larger area. Nigel volunteered to look into the nutritional quality of vetch as a possible feed and there was some interest in trialling this next year too. Before decisions are made, triallists want to look at yield results. All triallists agreed that one year is not enough to judge whether lupins can be successfully grown, (whether for own use or to sell commercially), and having had a particularly hard year, are keen to try again next year.

    Milestone: Monitoring of trial

    July 2017

    Progress note 2

    Nigel visited 3 more farms in the Taunton area this week and is hoping to visit the remaining 6 sites in the Cotswolds and East soon. Across the farms visited so far, the results appear varied and there may be challenges in harvesting due to weeds.

    Nigel has spoken with a triallist & agreed to hold the group progress meeting there in the first week of August. Triallists will look at the trial plots which have undergone mechanical weed control with the inter row hoe and topper. This trial plot is looking quite good, with a relatively heavy crop of blue lupins.

    At the other two farms visited, the major weed problems have been from fat-hen and redshank. Each site appears to be suffering from a different weed. Could this be due to different soils, the history of the fields and the surrounding areas?

    Despite one of the plots having anthracnose earlier in the season, this seems to have recovered relatively well.

    The group is planning to meet in a week's time to discuss progress and combining.

    Milestone: Monitoring of trial

    July 2017

    Progress note

    Nigel has been to visit some farms in Dorset this week and will continue looking around others in Taunton next week. A meeting will be planned for the first week in August once the best farm to meet at has been chosen.

    Farms seem to be 3-4 weeks from harvest. The blue lupins are largely looking better than the whites, which have suffered some anthracnose. The barley seems to have done too well in suppressing weeds and has also suppressed the lupins to an extent. Peas have not helped to suppress weeds, but the lupins are still looking like they have relatively good growth. Beans with white lupins have also done reasonably well. The vetch has swamped everything including the lupins.

    Potentially the biggest factor in weed suppression and good lupin growth is in seed bed preparation to keep grass weeds down, which will be noted and discussed in the upcoming meeting for trials going forward. Next week farms who have used the inter-row harrow will be visited to check on progress.

    Harrowing has not been undertaken in some farms - this seems likely due to timing issues between weed growth and lupin growth and the dry weather.

    Milestone: Monitoring of trial

    June 2017

    Anthracnose recovery

    One of the triallists who was having trouble with anthracnose in white lupins has observed that it seems to be going. Great news!
    - there is an over-riding majority of healthy plants at knee height, now on 28th June.
    - nice dark green leaves, upright, flowering and healthy.
    - leaves are not interlocked across rows yet, and appear to tolerate mechanical hoeing with no crop damage.
    - approximately 95% of the plants are fine, and there is very little disease left showing. Fingers crossed for a successful harvest.

    Questions now arise from this infection:
    Maybe this was just a fright. Is this normal for it to clear up in this way?
    Is it worth the risk of growing the whites?
    Did the searing hot sunshine kill off the fungal infection?
    Would an infection normally lead to total loss of crop?

    Milestone: Monitoring of trial

    May 2017

    Progress update on crop growth

    Coordinator update:

    The dry weather has not been kind to late sown crops but they have been monitored using photographs.

    The good news is that it has been so dry there are no weeds, the lupins look good even though some are still only just germinating. The beans in the rest of the field were planted about 10 days earlier and are looking much stronger but do have a few small fields. This site is in conversion from arable which may also explain the lack of weeds but another site checked 2 weeks ago was also very clean due to the dryness.

    Triallist updates:

    One triallist has reported some damage to the apex of lupins, and asked for suggestions of the cause. There has been speculation that it may have been frosted in late April / early May, and also that pigeons or rabbits may have eaten it. Between 5-10% of the plant was affected.

    As reported on another trial site for this field lab, the Blue Lupins were reported to be struggling with the lack of moisture this spring, with 1-2 plants per sq. meter dead. Also likely due to the lack of moisture, the weeds are currently negligible on all plots at this trial site.

    Another field lab triallist reported that birds have been taking the White Lupins and White Lupins with Peas, but the straight Blue Lupins appear to be less attractive to them. The birds are active on the trial plots and ignoring another patch of White Lupins in a separate field (not related to the trial).

    Milestone: Monitoring of trial

    April 2017

    Summary of triallists and trial details

    This group involves a total of 11 farmers trialling lupins. 3 farmers will sow both white and blue lupins, 4 will sow blue only and 4 white lupins only.

    Trial strips will consist of:

    -At all the sites a strip of beans will be used as a control.
    -White lupins will be either sown alone, or with vetch or sparse inter-sowing of barely.
    -Blue lupins will be either sown alone, or with peas (at 50% the normal rate each) or sparse inter-sowing of barley.

    Milestone: Methods Agreed

    April 2017

    Seeds drilled and on-farm interview with Farming Today

    Nigel recorded an interview with Sarah Swaddling of Farming Today at one of the triallist's farms.

    The farmer was drilling Blue Lupins to start off the trials for this exciting field lab.

    Milestone: Start of trial - seeds drilled

    March 2017

    Meeting: field lab planning

    Nigel Mapstone led a presentation outlining the methods of the trials, including uncertainties. Farmers discussed these during and after the presentation. David McNaughton, seed supplier for the trial, inputted a lot of advice on sowing and the type of seeds that would be best to use.

    Trial details including the start date, sowing rate, depth, hoe timing and sample analysis logistics were discussed. The balance of economics vs good practice for the soil was also talked over. Nigel suggested creating signs for each farmer to mark the field sites which was agreed by everyone.

    At the end of the meeting, the coordinator and each farmer went through the details of their trial and how they were going to carry it out; so that all triallists were comfortable with how to proceed. The next meeting will be held in one of the triallists fields in July.

    Milestone: Third meeting

    March 2017

    Considerations for the field lab trial

    Important points for triallists:

    - Calibrating the drill for each plot will be essential, and checking this whilst undertaking drilling in the first strip to see results and change if necessary was also important.
    - Farmers need to leave a headland around and between the trial strips.
    - If possible, farmers should try to randomise the drilling, for the trial to have greater scientific rigor.
    - There is a need for soil type-specific drilling depths for the seed, including different drilling depths for the type of seed - heavy soils will need shallower drilling depths than lighter soils, whilst beans will need to be sown deeper than lupins. Therefore, farmers must recalibrate the drill in between sowing these and be aware of their soil type too.

    Nigel asked the farming group to keep in contact as the trial gets underway and continues, and take photos to record progress.

    Milestone: Third meeting

    March 2017



    -Drilling to start at the beginning of April
    - Sowing rate: David advised that seeds are drilled at a 60 kg / acre rate, but this is still under discussion post-meeting
    - The drilling depth decided was 3 – 5 cm for blue and white lupins
    - The lupin:pea ratio is also still under discussion. It was suggested that the target is for 20 kg seed per strip (see later post)
    - Pea selection: Whether to use organic or non-organic pea is still to be decided. Farmers agreed that this should be which seed is considered best for the trial, regardless of whether imported or not etc.
    - Beans will be grown as a control measure
    - Barley will be planted instead of the previously discussed wheat, thought to be a better weed competitor

    - The inter-row hoe was recommend by Nigel, some farmers will use harrowing and the differences will be analysed
    - Hoe timing: Once 2-3 leaves have developed the lupins should be strong enough to withstand hoeing
    - Lupins must be checked for any damage during hoeing

    - Farmers will use quadrats to count the percentage of lupin plants, secondary plants and weeds 3 times on each test strip, this will be done when the first true leaf of the lupins is observed and after harrowing
    - The percent of flowering will also be recorded using the quadrats
    -Farmers to take photos to help record progress
    - Farmers were also asked to record and let Nigel know of drilling, emergence and flowering times

    Harvesting & Analysis:
    - The lupins will be cut across the top and tail of strips to ensure each strip is the same length
    - 500 g of seed will be collected for analysis
    - Each farmer will inform Nigel once the seeds are ready to collect, these will then be taken to a local mill for weighing

    Please refer to the Methodology document for fuller details.

    Milestone: Third meeting

    February 2017

    Coordinator, researcher & support meeting

    Ahead of the group meeting on the 9th March, the trial details and funding application were discussed.
    The trial details are as follows:

    • Soil survey of mineral content on every farm (coordinator currently undertaking)
    • Moving drilling to mid-April (won’t get seed until beginning of April)
    • To record throughout trial on each farm: using 1m2 quadrant on each trial & control strip 3x establishment crop count (4-6 weeks after drilled), weed count (x2 , any more counts a bonus), flowering % count, moisture content of harvest, quality & economical value
    • Strips need to be randomised when drilling
    • Farmers will hoe / harrow before weeds appear
    • Clover ley changed to wheat as more competitive against weeds, but shouldn’t out compete crop
    • Check in with farmers on progress of crops / monitoring throughout and give support
    • Meet again (likely once flowered / during silage)
    • Meet after harvest to discuss results

    Actions were also delegated to the coordinator, researcher and Soil Association support member.

    Milestone: Coordinator, researcher & support meeting

    January 2017

    Understanding Lupins

    At this meeting, James Trebble (MVF) gave a brief overview of the importance of Lupins as a source of protein equivalent to Soya but suitable to feed without processing.

    David McNaughton (Soya UK) described the advantages of Lupins as a crop with a low risk of loss to pests and diseases. The only serious damaging disease being Anthracnose, a seed borne disease, controlled with sprays in conventional systems but requiring a disease free seed in organic systems. This would mean that farm saved seed would not be an option for organic farmers and disease free organic seed was unlikely to ever be available, requiring derogations to use undressed conventionally produced seed.

    The main problem in growing lupins organically will be weeds and the objective of the trials is to find a method of cultivation and growing that can reduce the impact of weeds on yield.

    The varieties of Lupin available in the UK currently include;
    - White lupins – the highest yielding and highest nutritional quality, suitable to grow in soils up to pH 7.5, but with the drawback of late ripening and harvesting. Combining dates typically 15th- 25th September on light soils and can be later on heavier soils.
    - Blue lupins - slightly lower yielding and lower protein growing in soil lower than 7pH but normally ready for combining by the end of August. Probably not suitable for soils over laying chalk.

    Swathing of the lupin crop to desiccate ahead of harvest was discussed but this can lead to problems if done too early – must only be done after the seeds are well formed in the pods (reached ‘lactic maturity’).
    Lupin is a more drought tolerant crop than soya, and can be sown with a standard cereal drill.

    Seed costs for the lupin likely to be £55 per acre for both the blue and white.
    Weed control with a comb-harrow is possible in the first 2-3 weeks after establishment; that is before the crop meets over the rows, after this there will be too much crop damage.

    Milestone: Second Meeting

    January 2017

    Discussing field lab methods

    Nigel Mapstone presented an outline of the trial protocols for discussion on how this could be achieved at farm level. Trial strips of 12m x 100m requiring approx. 25kg of seed were proposed, at least 4 strips requiring 1/2Ha of land. No one present had access to an inter-row hoe so the suggestions for weed control methods were Combe harrowing, under-sowing or bi-cropping.
    In response to questions of profitability of the crop and yields required, figures comparing the value needed to replace a good crop of wheat in an arable rotation suggested a yield of 2.5t/Ha would need to fetch £450/t and for lupins to compete with Soya Expeller in the current market they should be no more than £417/t. However in an organic arable system a spring legume crop was more likely to extend the rotation than replace a grain crop.

    Several of the group were concerned that their soil may be too chalky and alkaline even for white clover. Alan Garrett raised concern that any contamination of cereal grains with lupins would affect its value for human consumption.

    From discussion the general opinion was that Blue lupins are the most viable option for a successful crop so a 4 strip trial plot could include;
    1. Beans as a control
    2. Blue lupins – no weed control
    3. Blue lupins – combe harrowed
    4. Blue lupins – under-sown with white clover ley
    5. Blue lupins – pea mix.
    Drilling period last week March / 1st week April to suit beans and lupins.
    For those on higher pH interested in discovering the limits then White lupins and with a later drilling date Soya are options.
    All taking part in the trial will be encouraged to grow a strip of beans to benchmark the lupins or soya against.
    To round up the meeting Tim Bevan gave a briefing on Innovative farmers and how the web portal (when working) would be used as a reference point and to keep group members up to date with progress on other sites.
    Next meeting to be arranged for late Feb/early March.

    Milestone: Second Meeting

    December 2016

    First meeting

    The meeting opened with James Trebble outlining the issue of the increasing difficulty in procuring organic proteins for animal feed production because of a rise in demand from the USA. In recent years, UK organic arable farmers have tried to grow a range of protein crops including lupins, peas and beans with differing levels of success. Plant breeding is bringing better varieties to market which should increase the likelihood of a successful crop.

    It was decided that this field lab would focus on these issues, and would aim to develop a blueprint for growing combinable protein-rich crops.

    Key discussion points involved:
    • crop choice - various legumes and rape considered
    • field history and current soil pH
    • weed management
    • trial length

    All group members present at this meeting were prepared to grow test plots of legumes in 2017, with lupins being the most popular crop with one grower prepared also to grow beans.

    It was agreed that all growers with test plots would grow two different legumes and legume mixes to provide a comparison at each site. Crops are likely to be drilled in March / April 2017.

    Milestone: First Meeting

  • Findings

    December 2017

    Year 1 Results

    At both Yeovilton and Hurn weather stations, April 2017 showed as significantly drier than the last 10 years - suggesting that this may have had a strong influence on the establishment of the lupin and companion crops. Establishment was down to 10% of the planned plant population in the worst case, and was also then followed by rooks, rabbits and deer grazing. This resulted in only 5 trials reaching harvest. Despite research knowledge on soil pH or fertility having an effect on lupins, there appeared to be no effect based on results obtained.

    Two trials were combined producing 3.2 t/ha at the Blandford / Dorchester site and 4.24 t/ha at Bridgets farm (Farm A in Year 2, see above). A control bean crop produced 3 t/ha. From an economic view-point these yields produced an economic yield the equivalent of 4t and 6 t/ha of Milling Wheat. Although samples were quality tested, high moisture content of lupins made results unscientific but all tests showed protein levels higher than the normal for beans.

    The hand harvested crop produced yields of 5.49 t/ha and 3.42 t/ha but contained many green lupins which would not have been collected in a combine.

    October 2018

    Year 2 Results

    The average yield of lupins taken in the second year were 1 t/ha with control beans yielding lower. Most triallists weren't able to separately harvest varieties but one who did had 1.25 t/ha of Iris and 1.13 t/ha of Regent. These two varieties also grew well in a plot together - 1.91 t/ha. Haegs Blaue yielded at 1.37 t/ha at one site, but failed at the other.

    Where beans were grown on a larger scale in surrounding fields, they yielded at 3 t/ha indicating that the plot trials may need to be larger to see the true potential of the crop.

    In the second year (2018) establishment was successful (ranging from 44-70%), as compared to the previous year which had poor establishment due to a dry spring. The triallists also felt more adept at growing the lupins the second time around.

    In the first year, April had been exceptionally dry compared to a 10 year average for Yeovilton and Hurn weather stations, followed by a wet harvest period. However, in the second year June and July was exceptionally dry.

    Again in the second year there was a mix of influences on the development of the lupins, including the very dry summer, rabbit pests and weeds (notably fat-hen) during the second-stage of lupin growth. Preparing the seed bed well and hoeing during establishment was felt to be key in first-stage growth success.

    As a protein crop, the lupins yielded at least as well as the bean controls, and would have been profitable as part of a break crop in a cereal rotation. Alternatively, the figures show that an organic oat crop would have been more profitable. The lupins are showing as a good option for organic livestock feed however.

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