A regenerative journey to self-sufficiency and environmentally friendly farming

Regenerative farmer Simon Bayliss is on a journey to self-sufficiency and using Newton biostimulant seed treatment to help grow better crops.

Simon Bayliss is the farm manager for Wincote Farms in Eccleshall, Staffordshire and is 8 years into his regenerative farming journey across 273 hectares, that has seen soil and plant health go from strength to strength and yields averaging 11.5 tonnes to the hectare in a “normal” year.

With resilience front and centre of Simon’s ambition for self-sufficiency and a desire to do better by the environment, raising soil organic matter and establishing fit, well tillered plants quick out of the blocks has come sharp into focus in recent years. Not afraid to try something new, Simon has been using all-organic Newton to help crops emerge faster and put deeper roots down ahead of winter.

Newton biostimulant seed treatment helps us grow better crops

Newton biostimulant seed treatment benefits at Wincote Farms

  • 4-5 days faster emergence over chemical seed treatment, 2 days faster over naked seed
  • Big improvement in size and structure of rooting over chemical treated and naked seed
  • Higher nutrient uptake
  • Faster crop establishment
  • Higher green area index in to spring
  • Higher wheat and barley yields

Soil is at the heart of everything

“Tight, compacted soils were the motivation to start taking soil organic matter more seriously”, explains Simon. “It makes good logic that if you have healthy soils you will grow healthy crops.”

“We started out in the mid 2000s using green waste compost supplied by the local council. It made a big difference to the condition of our heavier soils, but we were finding microplastics in the compost so stopped using it.”

“Instead, we focused on reducing our cultivations with a Claydon Hybrid Drill. It improved our soil structure and organic matter even without the compost.”

“Then, four years ago we made the decision to move away from the contract farming business we were operating across the country, to move things on, so we could concentrate on our own farming resilience,” says Simon. “We’re now fully regenerative pretty much.”

Measures of soil organic matter (SOM) have gone from an average of 1.6-1.7% across the farm to 7.2% on some parts and 4.5% on other parts of it. Yields have also increased from 10 t/ha on our old conventional system to 13.8 t/ha on the best of our regen fields.

Crops are really turning around now which Simon puts down to a combination of chopping straw, digestate, cutting out chemicals, Newton and optimising the environment for biology:

All straw is chopped and left to feed SOM

“Straw has huge value in terms of organic matter and P and K, which we use to feed the soil,” explains Simon.

“We chop the straw at harvest and leave this on the surface to decompose over time which supports soil biology and helps build soil structure for healthier crops.”

Straw obviously has a monetary value but we value its nutrient benefits more. It also removes the risk of compaction from balers coming into the field.

“It’s helped us reduce our fertiliser use as we’re now down to 150kg N in the wheat and just 80kg in the barley which we apply in the form of liquid fertiliser.

Newton biostimulant seed treatment helps us grow better crops

Digestate is used for its fertiliser value

For the last 5-7 years, Simon has also been applying digestate for its fertiliser value.

“I will only have 100% food waste ie not from humans, which we buy from Gnosall,” adds Simon.

“We did struggle to get the volume we needed this year and have had to apply some liquid N to top it up, but we use an N tester and SAP test twice in the growing season to ensure we’re only feeding the crop what it needs.”

We’ll also apply a foliar biostimulant twice in the growing season to help optimise nutrient uptake and feed plant health.

Pottinger Wave Disc drill aids low disturbance drilling

“We moved from the Claydon to the Pottinger Wave Disc 8 metre drill about 2 years ago as it enables us to operate low disturbance drilling in dry, wet or borderline conditions.”

“Each wave disc is located directly in front of the seed coulters and has a working width of 45mm that allows for minimum soil disturbance when drilling.”

“We’re not on a full direct drilling system as I feel its important to get air in to our soils, but it is less harsh than the Claydon strip till as it fractures the soil rather than moving it.  It helps aerate the soil, improve drainage and allows us to drill early, which we find is crucial for establishment ahead of winter.”

“With the weather being so volatile, we like to drill all of our wheat and barley in the first week of September to optimise crop establishment before winter and maximise GAI for spring.”

Simon’s also sowing on wider rows at 16.7cm instead of 12.5cm which he feels is important to maximise light penetration into the crop and provides more space for the mechanical weeder to work between the rows.

Newton biostimulant seed treatment helps us grow better crops

Pottinger Wave Disc drill

Wave disc which helps fracture the soil

Newton biostimulant seed treatment helps us grow better crops

Bazooka winter barley

Early maturing, robust varieties are selected for early drilling and to reduce chemical inputs

“We grow all winter cereals. We’ve toyed with the idea of cover crops and spring cropping but we suffer with drought on our light-medium soils so operate a winter cereal rotation.”

“All our wheat is Skyfall, which we grow for feed rather than milling, and all the barley is Bazooka. Both are early maturing and suit our September drilling preference.”

As part of Simon’s regenerative approach, no insecticides, growth regulators or post-emergence herbicides are used and fungicide use has also been dramatically reduced.

“We prefer to feed enzymes and biology during the season.”

“We apply liquid silicon for disease control and will only apply a T2 fungicide for rust if we have to, though we don’t have any problems with Septoria.”

“We’ll stick with Skyfall for another season but may move to another early driller like Graham for better rust resistance,” adds Simon.

Newton biostimulant seed treatment puts our crops streets ahead on emergence and rooting

All seed is home-saved and chemical dressings have been replaced with a natural alternative.

“We moved away from chemical seed treatments three years ago and now have Anglia Grain Services treat all our wheat and barley seed with Newton biostimulant seed treatment,” states Simon.

“I wanted to move away from chemical dressings to protect soil biology and when I read about Newton I was keen to test it for myself. So I set up a 3-way tramline trial comparing Beret Gold + Latitude, untreated (naked) seed and Newton treated seed,” continues Simon.

“With straight Newton, there was such a big improvement in the structure and size of roots, which is so important to enzymes and microbes in the soil for plant health.”

See photo on the right – “Newton is all about root development and better crops – the root system and root length were greatly improved over Beret Gold + Latitude and the untreated.”

Newton also puts our crops streets ahead on emergence, by a good 2 days compared to untreated seed and 4-5 days faster than the chemical dressed seed.”

“Crops do better when they are up and out of the ground quickly, especially in warm weather to put their roots down. Now we have all our wheat and barley seed treated with Newton.”

“With Newton our crops are up faster, we get more nutrient uptake and a better symbiotic relationship between the soil biology and the plant which gives us better crops.”

“Healthier crops are giving us higher yields and from using less chemicals across the farm in general, we are seeing more insects, bees, butterflies and wildlife.”


Newton biostimulant seed treatment helps us grow better crops

Above – Skyfall treated seed drilled 27th October 2020 with different seed dressings. Measurements and photo courtesy of Simon Bayliss.

Hatzenbickler Tined 24m Weeder

Hatzenbickler Tined Weeder helps replace chemical weed control

With zero interest in chemicals, and bags of enthusiasm for innovative solutions, Simon has also found an effective alternative to post-emergence herbicides, which is helping to take care of 98% of broad-leaved weeds on the farm – the Hatzenbickler Tined Weeder from Austria.

At 24m, its the only one of its size in the country and Simon notes a number of sceptics who tried to talk him out of it.

“It works well if you get in early. With less time spraying our crops we have more time for crop walking and can get on with the weeder twice in the season.”

It works well on the broadleaved weeds but can struggle with grass-weeds.

“Of course, the other benefit of leaving straw on the fields is that we avoid any risk of balers bringing in weed seed, so black-grass is not a problem here and any patches we do have we hand rogue, notes Simon.”

“However, immediately after drilling we will always apply a pre-emergence herbicide to help control brome and ryegrass which can be a bit of a problem,” says Simon.

So what’s next for Simon?

  • “From next season (ie Autumn 2022), we will apply all foliar applications at night (dark – sunrise) to avoid them drying too fast on the leaf – we expect a big difference in uptake from making applications of our biologicals at night time.”
  • “We may increase water rates to 300 – 350 litres of water per hectare to increase coverage – this works well in horticultural crops.”
  • “From next year we will stop contract farming the neighbouring farm so we can spend even more time making our own farm more self-sufficient and resilient to climate change and increasing regulation.”

For more information on Newton, download our booklet

If you’re looking for more information on Newton, testimonials, and trials results, you can download our Newton booklet here. Alternatively, please contact Stuart below for any additional information.

Newton biostimulant helps maximise our wheat establishment