Jonathan Hodgson

Great Newsome Farm,

I M Hodgson & Son Ltd,

East Yorkshire

Sponsored by: Oxbury Bank

THE Hodgson family farms 280 hectares, mostly arable, growing a variety of crops including wheat, oilseed rape, vining peas, spring beans, spring oats, spring barely, flax and herbal ley. Pigs are kept on a bed and breakfast arrangement, producing about 1,200 tonnes of manure a year and 1,200sq.m of slurry. The only ploughing done on-farm is for vining peas – the rest of the crops are strip tilled. Extra value is added with wheat grown for seed, biscuit flour, fuel and breadcrumbs. Barley is grown for malting; the oats go into porridge, the beans for human consumption and the flax for mattresses.

As well as making soil more biologically active, the strip till drill helps with water holding capacity, reducing run-off of water. Since 2020 Jonathan has introduced cover crops, using a diverse mix including linseed, buckwheat, vetch, clovers, phacelia, dikon radish, mustard and forage rape. These are grazed by sheep belonging to neighbouring farmers. The farm has introduced catch crops, planted after the vining peas and oilseed rape to trap the summer’s solar energy and nutrients. Oilseed rape has a companion crop of buckwheat, clover and vetch between the rows. This prevents weed growth (reducing the farm’s herbicide use by 50 per cent) and secondly fixing nitrogen which then becomes available to the oilseed rape in the spring. Buckwheat scavenges for phosphate, benefiting the oilseed rape.

This year a trial crop of boats – spring beans and oats grown together – has been sown. “We are looking to see if growing different species together can help with soil biology,” says Jonathan. “The beans feed the oats with nitrogen and hopefully the overall margin per hectare will be greater than a standard bean crop. We now add molasses, which is a carbon source, to all our applications.” A better work-life balance has been a benefit of strip tilling, with working hours reduced. Soils have improved and it takes less fuel per hectare to plant a crop.

Use of cover crops has increased wildlife and skylarks, snipe, owls and lapwings are regular visitors. Being part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme has enabled Jonathan to provide more habitats and wildlife corridors. Looking to the future, Jonathan would like to offer a regenerative service to other growers, helping with the transition or possibly offering specialist services such as direct drilling and cover crop planting.

Sustainable practices

  • Pig manure used as fertiliser
  • Catch crops, planted after the vining peas and oilseed rape to trap the summer’s solar energy and nutrients
  • Strip tilling all crops apart from peas
  • Oilseed rape planted with a companion crop between rows, preventing weed growth and reducing herbicide use by 50 per cent
  • Improved soil means less fuel per hectare to plant a crop