Royal Agricultural University - Higher Level Stewardship

Kings has a longstanding relationship with the Royal Agricultural University near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. As well as providing seed and advice for the university’s Harnhill Farm Higher Level Stewardship agreement, Kings manager Richard Barnes and advisor Lee Ward attended RAU themselves in the 1990s.

RAU Demo Plots

Farm manager Tony Norris explains, “We’ve dealt with Kings for a number of years; they have been supplying us with seed since we got involved with HLS and we’re now in year five. We very much value their knowledge and expertise.”

The relationship strengthened further this year with the introduction of a new HLS demonstration site. A range of environmental and game cover seed was drilled, including flower grass mixtures, pollen and nectar mixtures and a range of wild bird seed mixtures, to replicate a HLS agreement in one field, essentially demonstrating a range of options in a ‘one stop shop’.

“It’s in a very prominent position and we’ll be showing it off to its best advantage,” says Tony. “The footfall on farm is quite diverse here, including local farmer groups, dignitaries and politicians as well as the students, so the field will certainly be made good use of.”

The seed was donated by Kings and the team also assisted the RAU with the planning of the 5.5 hectare field to determine the best mixtures to plant. Richard, Lee and southern technical advisor Marc Bull will continue to provide technical advice and support at no cost as part of the ongoing arrangement. SOYL is also working at the site and has recently flown the SOYLsight UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) over the field to map the crops. The imagery produced has helped the advisory team to plan the crop layout and identify variations within the field for future reference.

The site is complemented by the RAU’s nearby teaching facility, the Harnhill Rural Innovation Centre. This makes it ideal for student use and the wider farming public and it will be a valuable learning tool for many years to come, acting as a teaching aid for all RAU’s agricultural and land management courses, as well as offering research and monitoring opportunities. It will be an event venue too; the first event will be a HLS workshop for local agreement holders in December, run in conjunction with Natural England.

Richard explains, “There will always be something new to look at so it will be a really useful resource for everyone. There are perennial and annual crops at the site, so it will be ever-changing as it evolves and develops over time. As the new Countryside Stewardship and Ecological Focus Areas area adopted, the site will be a great place to demonstrate short and long term features and how they can be managed to fit scheme requirements while also benefitting growers and farmland wildlife. It has great potential and we look forward to using it.”

To read more about the demonstration site, please click here.

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