Crop Management Partners – Study Tour to Edinburgh
February 1st and 2nd saw a group of 20 farmers and agronomists leave behind a cold and bleak Gatwick with storm ‘Doris’ approaching to find a shockingly balmy and pleasant
Edinburgh. Well, they do say the sun shines on the righteous…?
Having been out of England for all of about an hour, we clearly decided we missed it too
much, taking a trip back across the border and down to Beal Farm in Northumberland for
our first stop on the tour. We were greeted by Rod Smith, the farmer who broke the world
wheat yield record in 2015, with a barn-busting 16.52 t/ha. Enjoying long, cool days and
with heavy, fertile clay soil, the farm has long been recognized as one of the highest-yielding in the country.
Rod gave an excellent overview of the farm and why in his mind, they had
achieved such a result. It was most refreshing to hear Rod explain that it was no single
‘silver bullet’ product or chemical but instead a combination of getting the basics right,
looking after his soil, attention to detail and most importantly, near-perfect growing
conditions. An interesting point was that on the combine yield map of the field, some of the
most fertile areas were touching 23 t/ha – a reminder of what winter wheat has the
potential to achieve.
After a hearty northern lunch and a pint of bitter thanks to Robin Appel Ltd, we arrived at Simpsons Malt in Berwick for a tour around the maltings. Whilst we proudly describe ourselves as professional malting barley growers, few of us knew exactly what happened to our barley after it leaves the farm. We were shown the entire process, from steeping, where the barley is washed multiple times to take on water, then to germination – getting the barley to grow a little. Finally is drying, halting the germination process so that valuable starch reserves are not lost. The site is able to produce 235,000 tonnes of malt each year and the sheer scale of the process was eye-opening.
After a day of travelling and admiring the standard of the ploughing in the area, the coach trip back to Edinburgh was subdued, however everyone summoned the energy for a delicious meal followed by live jazz music in the city centre.
Thursday morning, everyone (just about) made breakfast and boarded the coach for our final stop of the tour, to the Glenkinchie Distillery not far from Edinburgh. Unfortunately the distillery was not at full working capacity due to their annual over-winter shut down, but nonetheless it was fascinating to see the workings behind a commercial distillery and the effort taken for each bottle of scotch! It was interesting to learn how different whiskies are matured in oak barrels which have previously stored port or sherry for example, which gives each whisky a different flavour.
No distillery visit would be proper without tasting some scotch,and despite the time of day we eagerly sampled a dram or two of the Glenkinchie offerings. The biggest challenge of the trip was for Mark and Anne to figure out the logistics of getting the bottles of scotch home that some had bought in the distillery shop! (Crop Management Partners LLP accepts no responsibility for the drinking loss of any whisky).
All in all, both an enjoyable and informative study tour about what happens to our carefully-grown spring barley after we have done our bit. We would like to thank Anne for her hard working organizing the trip as well as Jonathon Arnold and Robin Appel Ltd for their kind contribution to the tour (and high quality coach).