“On the whole we’ve been very lucky” – we catch up with Cambridgeshire grower Sam Morris

Publish on February 16, 2024
Reading time : < 1 min
We know how our varieties perform in trial but what’s even more important is how they perform on farm, and that’s where our Growers Club comes in. We recently spoke to Sam Morris, who farms in the southwest corner of Cambridgeshire.

E J Morris & Son, Top Farm, Croydon, Cambridgeshire

  • Area farmed: 260ha owned and a further 500ha on a contract basis
  • Soil types: Heavy clay on main farm, variable on other farms.
  • Key crops: Wheat, spring barley, spring beans
  • Typical rotation: First wheat – second wheat – third wheat – spring barley – spring beans
  • Main cultivations: Rotational ploughing to control blackgrass, minimum cultivation
  • RAGT varieties: RGT Bairstow

An earlier start to autumn drilling than normal appears to be paying off at Top Farm this season.

Wheats sown in the last week of September and early October went into very good seedbeds and are doing well considering the weather since then. Later wheats have struggled somewhat but should still make reasonable crops.

The policy of including a double spring break of barley followed by beans in the rotation, a tactic Sam introduced in 2018, has suppressed blackgrass enough to enable him to pull the farm’s drilling start date forward by two to three weeks compared with the previous wheat/OSR-based rotation.

Rotational ploughing helps further – while most land is min-tilled, spring barley and some second and third wheat stubbles are turned over as appropriate if the grassweed burden increases too much.

The whole approach works well. Spring barley is grown on profitable malting contracts, while beans, although less attractive financially, do make a good entry for wheat. “We look for and generally do get a good crop of first wheat, and second and third wheats do fairly well too,” adds Sam.

Safety net

“We now have a relatively risk-free system in place. I do like to have something in the ground early on – it provides a bit of a safety net in seasons like this.

“We can’t be drilling all our farm at the end of October – we’re on heavy soils and we just wouldn’t get it done in a normal season, let alone last autumn.

“Later-drilled crops were pretty tricky to establish as it was. We also have some pretty average headlands – I think we rolled too much to avoid damage from new blackgrass chemistry, but it does an amazing job and we have to use it.

“Having experienced some crop damage last season, we made the decision to consolidate seedbeds just before it got wet, but it was the wrong thing to do. But on the whole we’ve been very lucky – things could have been a lot worse.”

Sam is growing 35ha of RGT Bairstow, a high yielding Group 4 wheat that, along with other similar varieties, has been sold in the past for soft milling, securing a useful premium.

“It did OK last year, although it was the crop that suffered herbicide damage. This year it looks brilliant so far as a third wheat – it seems to perform well in this position.”

Looking ahead, Sam is keeping a keen eye on RAGT’s Genserus BYDV-resistant varieties. “These look very interesting, particularly as the trait is now appearing in commercially attractive varieties along with orange wheat blossom midge resistance, which is a must have as far as I am concerned.


“No-one wants to spray insecticides more than we have to and these varieties also fit well with the SFI insecticide-free option, which is worth £45/ha. If we decide to go down that route and we can get hold of variety that suits our system at the right price, we will seriously consider growing BYDV-resistant wheats within the rotation.”

Back to the present and, with 40% of the ground destined for spring crops, Sam is hoping for a kind spring. “We’re a long way off drilling yet – things are still pretty wet.”

Share this post by:

[MEDIA] - Filtre categories
  • Barley
  • Corporate
  • Cover crops
  • Downstream
  • Events
  • Forage
  • Innovation
  • Maize
  • News
  • Oilseed Rape

Demo Field tour part 2 – Searching for new BYDV resistance

We joined managing director Lee Bennett on one of his many tours, which illustrated the broad range of research on show and, of course, some of the most promising varieties emerging from RAGT’s advanced breeding programmes. Here are some of the highlights.


Cereals : new varieties to discover !

RAGT is back at Cereals this year again and have a lot to show there. As well as all the commercial varieties that you probably already know, you'll be able to see some very new varieties, and here is a little description of them.

NewsOilseed Rape

Top OSR picks for this coming autumn and beyond part 2

RAGT Seeds is on the verge of delivering some outstanding oilseed rape varieties, thanks to its decision to reset its breeding programme a few years ago. New material available for sowing this autumn covers a range of growth habits, traits and agronomic features, and there are also some very promising varieties in development.

InnovationNewsOilseed RapeWheat

Making more of SFI opportunities, winter wheat variety demonstration, and new look AD crops

Growers, merchants and end users will be able to get up close to some of the most innovative developments emerging from RAGT Seeds’ breeding programmes when the company’s open days return this summer. Over the next two newsletters, we’ll be highlighting some of this work. This month’s article kicks off with a look at a topic that has become particularly pertinent in recent months.


Genserus BYDV resistance – a must-have trait in winter wheat, say trials partners

RAGT has established a comprehensive set of trials across the southern half of England and Ireland to assess the true impact of barley yellow dwarf virus on a range of winter wheat varieties. In this article, two partners managing some of the 18 sites in England and Ireland explain why they have been keen to get involved in the trials, which are comparing the performance of several of RAGT’s BYDV-resistant Genserus varieties against a range of popular commercial wheats.

NewsOilseed Rape

Top OSR picks for this coming autumn and beyond

RAGT has a clutch of new oilseed rape varieties that will be available for sowing this autumn, covering a range of growth habits, traits and agronomic features. Over the next two newsletters, RAGT UK’s managing director Lee Bennett looks at what’s on offer and previews some promising material coming through the pipeline.


RGT Pixxon – gaining a reputation for resilience

RGT Pixxon is gaining a reputation as a resilient maize variety that suits a range of different sites and soils, thanks to robust agronomics and very good standing power that help deliver plenty of highly digestible quality forage.


Tough test for RGT Grouse in Suffolk

Frank Stennett admits he did just about everything wrong when establishing his 35ha crop of RGT Grouse for seed at Genevieve Farms near Bury St Edmunds last autumn.


Successful debut for RGT Grouse in Norfolk

Norfolk grower Will More believes BYDV-resistant wheat varieties could play an important role at Manor Farm, Tunstall near Great Yarmouth in the future, following an impressive debut from his seed crop of RGT Grouse last season.


RGT Lantern

Second wheats are yielding well, with RGT Lantern achieving pleasing quality and looking good in the field.


RGT Bairstow standing strong

Second wheats have produced some surprisingly good results, with RGT Bairstow standing strong despite the weather, and farm trials looking promising.


RGT Planet weathers well

Sam has grown RGT Planet for several years and it always does pretty well. “The past couple of years it’s been really good. I’ve always liked it as a variety – it always makes the spec. As long as maltsters want it, we’ll keep growing it.”


Skyfall keeps on delivering

The wet weather is causing many farmers headaches this year, but those with RGT Skyfall are happy with its consistent performance in a wide range of growing conditions.


New arable products manager for RAGT

RAGT Seeds UK has appointed Jack Holgate as arable products manager to further raise the profile of the company’s fast developing and diverse combinable crops portfolio.

Oilseed RapeR&D

Setting new standards in oilseed rape

RAGT’s innovative oilseed rape breeding programme is nothing if not ambitious, targeting a wide range of traits that, if successfully developed, will set new standards in OSR variety choice.


‘Super season’ for RGT Rashid

First wheat RGT Rashid following spring barley after potatoes has produced one of the best wheat crops of the season at A & S M Cawood’s Burley House Farm, South Milford, North Yorkshire.