Strategic Cereal Farm East

Brian Barker 30-06-2017 (c )Gary Donnison

Strategic Farm East

E.J. Barker & Sons is, a family farm partnership and contracting business in Suffolk which dates back to 1957. The 513ha arable farm business uses a traditional 12-year rotation, incorporating winter wheat for feed, herbage grass seed and break crops of spring barley, beans, oilseed rape and linseed. 

Stowmarket was a Monitor Farm (2014 to 2017)

Mission and vision

An independent, open and honest platform for UK farmers to see and learn from the integration of research in a practical way within a commercial farming system.

The vision of the Strategic Farm East is to understand the farmed environment and develop a long-term strategy to increase productivity and produce a high quality end-product without having a negative effect on the farmed environment. The project will bridge the gap between research and practical farming and provide a programme of demonstrations, subject to full net-margin cost benefit analysis, which are relevant to the current situation facing UK farming. The project will allow farmers to make informed decisions and increase farmer to farmer engagement.

The core values of the Strategic Farm East are: independent, honest, practical, productive, cost effective and relevant.

Trials and demonstrations

Cover crops

Water sampling from land drains in the baselining year of the Strategic Cereal Farm East showed the benefits of using cover crops to improve water quality. This demonstration tests the use of an over-winter cover crop versus over winter-plough and over-winter stubble on land before a spring crop and its effect on soil health and water quality. The demonstration will then assess the cover crop’s effect on subsequent crops in the rotation.

Cover crops try-out description (pdf)

Early crop biomass

It has been shown that a crop with high biomass has more of a potential to achieve higher yield, can reduce nutrient losses over winter and may help with the agronomic challenge of drilling later for black-grass and BYDV. This demonstration looks to better understand how starter fertilisers can contribute to boosting biomass in the autumn and winter for winter wheat. Three products (Polysulphate, TSP and Kieserite) are being tested both via broadcast and placed application techniques.

Early crop biomass demonstration description (pdf)

Reduced input

This demonstration looks to determine the effect of reduced fungicide applications and cost of production on varieties with different resistance ratings for disease control under high, medium and low fungicide strategies. Five varieties are being tested in this demonstration including: Silverstone, Graham, Siskin, Shabras and Santiago. 

Reduced input try-out description (pdf)


In the first year of the Strategic Farm, we carried out a range of assessments in order to create a baseline for the farm. These assessments included: soil analysis, earthworm assessments, drain water quality assessments, electrical conductivity scanning, crop assessments and a weather station was installed.

Find out more about the baselining assessments (pdf)

First year baselining results (pdf)

Trials and demonstrations – harvest 2020

The following trials and demonstrations will be looked at through the Strategic Cereal Farm East for the harvest 2020 season:

  • Managed lower inputs: To determine the effect of reduced fungicide applications on varieties with different disease ratings for disease control under high, medium, low and untreated fungicide strategies. A continuation of the harvest 2019 demonstration.
  • Early crop biomass: The aim of the trial is to explore ways in which canopy size in late-drilled crops of winter wheat can be enhanced to improve final yield. A continuation of the harvest 2019 demonstration.
  • Cover crops: To determine the role of cover crops in reducing nutrient leaching. A continuation of the harvest 2019 demonstration.
  • Pests and natural enemies: To look at pest and beneficial insect populations and monitoring across the Strategic Farm.
  • Very low inputs: To determine the effect of reduced pesticide input applications on pest, weed and disease.
  • Variable rate nitrogen: To determine the cost-effectiveness of variable rate nitrogen on high and low biomass areas.
  • Repeat baselining: To monitor soil and crop characteristics through the rotation, including biomass assessments, soil nutrient and biological analysis, earthworm, VESS and pest and natural enemies assessments.



Previous meetings

Results Day: 26 November 2019

The results day on 26 November 2019 provided information from the second year of trials and demonstrations at Strategic Cereal Farm East.

> Strategic Cereal Farm East Results Day Presentations

Strategic Cereal Farm East Results Day Handout

Earlier meetings


How two farmers hope to make better use of crop inputs (Farmers Weekly, August 2019)

Crop trials in practice (Farmers Guardian, June 2019)

Can farmers be less reliant on fungicides? (Farmers Weekly, April 2019)

Decision-making in farming is as complex as a game of chess (East Anglian Daily Times, August 2018)

Developing a soil health testing plan (November 2018)

Managed lower inputs at Strategic Farm East (September 2018)

Bridging the gap between research and reality (East Anglian Daily Times, November 2017)

Baselining - the start of the Strategic Farm East (blog, December 2017)

Contact us

If you would like more information about the Strategic Cereal Farm East, please get in touch.

For information on the research, trials, demonstrations and findings: 

  • Brian Barker, Strategic Cereal Farm Host - @The_Barker Boys
  • Emily Pope, AHDB Knowledge Transfer Manager–; @emilypope_KT

For information on events, resources or visiting the Strategic Farm:

  • Teresa Meadows, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager –; @CerealsEA
Follow #strategicfarm on Twitter for research, demonstration and event updates.


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More videos

 The worm count test

Visual soil assessments

Visual soil assessments

Welcome to the Strategic Farm East

Related Pages