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Sweet Progress: Farming Update from Nostell Estate’s Appleby Farm

Published: 17.05.24 | by Peter Molyneux, Estate Director | 4 minute read

We caught up with our farm manager, Matthew Copley, to hear all about the latest agricultural updates from the Nostell Estate.

As spring unfolds, we’re excited to share the progress and commitment of our agricultural endeavours, particularly our sugar beet cultivation, as we prepare for the 2024 autumn/ winter harvest. At Appleby Farm in Lincolnshire, our commitment to sustainable and efficient farming practices is as strong as ever, and as the seasons change, so do our activities on the farm. Our journey began in the chill of January, and now, with the warmth of spring upon us, let’s delve into the details of farming life.

ROOTED IN TRADITION

Sugar beet might just be the unsung hero of your kitchen pantry. This root crop is the very stuff that fills the Silver Spoon bags you pick up from the supermarket shelves. It’s the sweet touch in your morning brew and a staple in British baking. British Sugar plc, the UK’s sole sugar beet processor, ensures the UK’s homegrown beets account for half of the nation’s sugar demand. With 2,300 UK sugar beet growers confirmed for the 2024/2025 season, Nostell is proud to be a part of this sweet tradition. 

Tracing back to the early 1900s, the UK’s journey with sugar beet has seen farming methods advance significantly since Norfolk’s first crop a century ago. Understanding the sugar beet plant and the ideal conditions for its growth is crucial for successful cultivation. 

THE CLIMATE CHALLENGE

Harvesting sugar beet is no small feat; it comes with its fair share of hurdles. Our farm manager, Matthew Copley, has been steering the Estate through the ups and downs this season. With careful preparation earlier in the year and drilling completed last month, we’ve tackled the job with a watchful eye on the ever-changing weather.

The main challenge with all types of farming is always the weather. For sugar beet, we need dry conditions in early spring to prepare the fields and establish the crop. Despite the wet weather and a slight setback in the farming schedule, we’ve successfully planted around 10-12 seeds per square metre, ensuring a robust harvest later in the year.

Matthew Copley, Farm Manager

Through the growing season over the summer and early autumn, our farmers are counting on a mix of regular rain, and lots of sunshine, to allow the crop to photosynthesise, converting sunlight into sugars that are stored in the sugar beet roots. Let’s hope the weather holds up! 

SOIL TO SUCCESS

At Nostell Estate, farming is not just a seasonal job; it’s a year-round commitment to excellent agriculture, with every action from field ploughing to seed drilling done with precision and care. 

Now let’s go back to the start of the year when Matthew and the team were busy working away at Appleby Farm, ploughing the fields in preparation for the 2024 sugar beet crop. This process inverts the soil, burying the previous crop residues, and utilises the winter weather to help break down any lumps of soil.

As we progress into spring, our fields are cultivated to create a perfect seedbed, levelling the plough furrows for the upcoming planting. Using a special seed drill around 10-12 seeds per square metre are accurately drilled into the soil. This approach ensured that each sugar beet plant would have the exact resources and conditions needed to thrive, minimising waste and maximising potential. 

Such detailed planting is essential for sugar beet’s successful growth, with harvest plans split into two phases – one in November and the other in December. Stay tuned for updates on this year’s harvest as it unfolds!

BEYOND THE BEETS

At Nostell, we’re not just farming for today, we’re farming for tomorrow. Together, we’re sowing the seeds of a sustainable future, one sugar beet at a time! But our agriculture canvas is much broader, filled with vining peas, field beans, oilseed rape, and milling oats. We also cultivate barley, which serves a dual purpose for animal feed and brewing, and wheat which is a staple for breadmaking, animal feed, and even ethanol production for renewable fuels. Each crop plays its role in our crop rotation, promoting soil health and reducing the risks of pests and diseases.

We believe that sustainability is the cornerstone of our future in farming. Under the leadership of our farm manager, Matthew Copley, we’re managing our lands with a commitment to innovative and sustainable farming practices. You can learn more about our farm manager here.

Did you know that we recently built our very own state-of-the-art grain store, ensuring that we can store and manage our harvests with the utmost efficiency? You can read more about our grain store here


And we’ll be back later in the year with more farming updates. In the meantime, keep up to date with all our estate news on our LinkedIn page.

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