Ensuring the preservation of the environment and optimising operational efficiencies are paramount for the long-term viability of a farming enterprise in Shropshire – with the strategy largely revolving around kickstarting crop growth, with help from biostimulant seed treatment Newton.


Newton benefits on Rory's farm

•Chemical-free alternative

•Stronger crops with significant rooting increases

•Enhanced rooting aids bacteria and the soil

•Improved nutrient acquisition from the soil

•Primes crops from the get-go to perform to their potential

Sustainable starts with Newton

Second generation farmer Rory Lay is committed to cultivating a sustainable business that can be passed down to future generations alongside his father, John, on their 440ha farm near Wolverley.

Their mixed farming approach encompasses both arable and livestock operations, with cropping tailored to maximise returns, while also providing the bulk of feed for their 440 beef cattle and 770 grazing sheep.

Despite encountering challenges like clubroot on lighter soils due to decades of growing turnips for the sheep, Rory has navigated these hurdles by adopting innovative approaches.

For instance, he has shifted towards a diverse nine-way cover crop mix, sown in July, comprising forage rye, phacelia, clover, sunflowers, plantain, chicory, vetch, and linseed. This blend not only sustains sheep through winter but also enhances soil health with its extensive root systems. “The deep rooting nature of our cover crops not only helps improve soil structure, but also helps to build organic matter and nutrient capture from the soil, which I’m trying to optimise with the diverse rooting depths and growth habits of our covers,” he explains. “For example, forage rye is really deep rooting, as is the phacelia which has a high root length density in topsoil.

“Chicory also produces a large root system and has anthelmintic properties, providing a natural wormer for the sheep.”

Sustainability strategies

The farm’s sustainability efforts extend beyond cover cropping. Transitioning away from traditional ploughing methods to minimum tillage has yielded cost savings and improved soil structure and reductions in flock size have streamlined operations, while strategic land rental agreements for grazing lambs contribute to enhanced soil fertility. Additionally, the farmyard manure from the Aberdeen Angus herd enriches soil organic matter.

In terms of crop protection, Rory emphasises a balanced approach that minimises fungicide inputs while safeguarding soil microbes. Selecting disease-resistant varieties and employing biostimulant seed treatments are integral components of this strategy, aimed at bolstering crop resilience and reducing chemical reliance.

“It all comes down to getting our soils as fit as we can and ensuring a healthy plant from the start, so that we can move towards being less reliant on chemical applications.”

Due to his location, yellow rust and septoria are the main disease headaches, he explains. “We’re trying to cut back on fungicide in the main crops by reducing rates and the number of applications, but because I need to make a profit to be sustainable, it does very much depend on the season how we do that. If it’s a bad disease year we can’t take the risk of losing valuable yield, so we will spray accordingly.

“We grow all feed wheats and varietal choice comes down to disease ratings – we always opt for varieties with a score of 7 and above for septoria as this costs the most to control,” he explains.

“This year we’re growing Dawsum, Extase, Champion, and I’m also trying a blend of Graham, Gleam, Skyscraper and Extase to see if this can help us optimise disease resistance.”

Biostimulant seed treatment benefits

Another valuable tool Rory has discovered is the use of biostimulant seed treatments, which he believes play a crucial role in promoting strong early growth in crops.

Recognising that a healthy plant is more resilient, Rory initially experimented with foliar biostimulants eight years ago. However, due to inconsistent results, he shifted his focus towards establishing healthy plants from the outset, emphasising the development of robust root systems capable of accessing nutrients and moisture as the season progresses.

Rory’s extensive research into soil health reinforced his belief in the importance of nurturing seeds for optimal growth, ultimately reducing reliance on chemical inputs. This conviction led him to explore Interagro’s biostimulant seed treatment, Newton, drawn by its promising benefits supported by empirical data.

Acknowledging the critical role of a strong start in crop development, Rory attests to Newton’s efficacy in bolstering crop vigour.

“I’ve spent a lot of time reading about soils and how getting the seed growing well with good access to nutrients is the key to reducing reliance on chemicals. It’s these benefits which resonated when reading about Interagro’s biostimulant seed treatment Newton – and also seeing the data to back it up.

“Getting crops off to the strongest start is essential and that’s what Newton gives us. Well sown is half grown, and with Newton crops are stronger and the improved rooting is key, helping improve nutrient acquisition from the soil to feed the growing plant.”

Newton trialled and tested

Over the past three years, Rory has implemented Newton treatment across all his home-saved seed, driven not only by its benefits but also by a deliberate shift away from chemical seed dressings. While encountering challenges such as microdochium contamination in 2022, necessitating the use of Beret Gold (fludioxonil), Rory has since reduced reliance on chemical treatments.

Trailing Newton-only and Latitude (silthiofam) + Newton treatments in three fields last autumn aimed to explore potential benefits further. However, adverse weather conditions, including record-breaking rainfall, thwarted these efforts, leading to disappointing outcomes. “It would have made interesting viewing, but after the worst autumn on record for the farm, the fields have been sat under water for weeks and I don’t think we’ll be able to take a single field through as seed is just rotting,” he says.

Looking ahead, Rory remains focused on sustainable practices, including expanding tree planting initiatives to support biodiversity. Central to his vision is the recognition that starting with high-quality seed, enhanced by innovations like Newton, lays the foundation for future success, irrespective of seasonal challenges. “Our goal is simple – to create a business and a farm which will be here for future generations. But to get there, it requires careful planning, cautious decision-making and utilising every tool available to minimise risk and maximise returns – both financial and in terms of crop and soil health.

“Starting with good, healthy seed is crucial and being able to lean on the benefits of Newton helps us ensure that, regardless of whatever else happens that season, we’ve primed crops from the get-go to perform to their full potential.”

Stimulate your plants to thrive naturally

Our Newton seed treatment is the natural, eco-friendly alternative to chemical seed treatment or a great addition to chemical/nutritional dressings if you’re not ready to give up you chemical treatment just yet.

With proven abilities in the field, Newton not only ensures vigorous crop establishment, it also helps to build stronger, healthier, more resilient plants less dependent on synthetic inputs.

Our new guide is packed full of trials data, feedback and info on how to apply and buy Newton – you can download it here.

Please get in touch with Stuart below if you have any questions and need help.