Collaboration key for on-farm results

Collaboration key for on-farm results8 May 2024

These are some of the phrases that come up in conversation with County Durham farmer, William Maughan, and his ProCam agronomist, Nigel Scott, when asked how they work together.


Farming a total of 200ha (500 acres) at Denton Grange near Darlington, as well as arable cropping, William’s business includes a large laying hen enterprise and beef cattle. Nigel has been servicing the business for 25 years, previously working with William’s father, before William returned from college. William says he appreciates the holistic approach that Nigel and ProCam are able to bring.

“The biggest turn off is if you have someone who’s just coming to sell you something,” William explains. “It’s having that trusted advisor that’s important, but also moral support. “It’s awkward trying to do your own agronomy because you only look at your own acres. We’re also having to make decisions faster.” Visiting the farm regularly, Nigel sees it as a partnership approach and is focused on helping the business both short and long-term. ProCam agronomists bring a people-based philosophy, he says, while being able to share knowledge from trials and experience on other farms. “We have to be responsive to what’s topical,” Nigel explains. “Agronomy is the science of crop production, so the role is extremely varied. It can range from interpreting and explaining the science around a new product and how to use it, to strategies to keep erucic acid levels low in oilseed rape to help with end market planning. “You’ve got to push gently sometimes, but we make mutual decisions. We work closely. The farmer knows the farm better than anyone; we’re here to give guidance.”

Fit for the future
As well as day-to-day and field-to-field technical recommendations on agronomy, crop protection and nutrition, Nigel helps William in areas such as rotation planning, variety choice and seed rates. But he also takes a keen interest in wider strategies to help the business remain fit for the future, and has worked with William and his business to evaluate new technologies and techniques that can benefit the farm.

These have included field testing of ProCam’s advanced soil analysis and nutrient planning service, SoilSense, which has allowed more targeted nutrient use, and a large-scale wheat trial evaluating solutions to improve nitrogen (N) use efficiency – for example by using nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

William says: “This is big picture stuff. I’m interested to see if we can add more yield if we use full rate N, and if we can plug the gap if we reduce N use. If fertiliser prices increase, I’ll be looking to cut back N and find alternatives. “We’re not trying to be an early adopter, but we do want to improve. Our carbon footprint is also important.”Nigel agrees: “Farming faces challenges – for example environmental issues and market volatility – but also opportunities. As we learn from this trial we’ll develop even better nitrogen use strategies. It’s an example of agronomist knowledge and farmer knowledge working together.”