We want to show the breadth of what TMAF does in a new light and reveal the people who helped steer our work and create the positive differences we make.
Robert Salmon has been a lifelong supporter of the Morley Foundation. He shared some of the experience he brought to TMAF before he retired as a trustee in 2022.
What is your day job? Or if retired, what was your profession?
Semi-retired farmer. I am still looking after the grass seed enterprise.
What do you do in your spare time?
We have just finished building our retirement home so gardening, pond digging and chopping wood have all gone on in recent months. I believe we should give the young their head. Agriculture should be a young person’s business so I intend to enjoy retirement whilst I am fit enough to do so. I have a wood to manage in Cornwall too.
Tell us something interesting about you that people might not know?
I enjoy the challenge of restoring and using mechanical knitting machines. I have 3 sock machines and a v-bed knitter all from the 1920s, also a tube knitter from the 1950s.
When, why and with whom did you first come to Morley?
It started about 40 years ago. Many of the existing board were serving what was then Morley Research including John Forrest. Research will always be key to moving any business forward. At the time, Perry Mclean was director, and Doug Stevens, Mike Nuttall and Mike May were driving arable agronomy forward.
Over the winter you could go to many meetings that were all about increasing yields by using growth regulators, fungicides and increased nitrogen. Weed control was relatively straightforward using IPU and Dicurane. Weed resistance hadn’t been heard of and Roundup simplified couch control. Heady days.
What did/do you see are TMAF’s unique strengths?
The importance of independent impartial agronomic advice. Most agronomists at the time were employed by chemical distributors with clear sales goals.
When did you become a committee member and what roles have you had?
I joined quite early on with no particular role but have always been keen on enhancing soils so was pleased to be part of the SAMS project.
What are the top things that you’ve seen TMAF do during your involvement?
- Helping fund the John Forrest Memorial award jointly with the Felix Cobbold Trust. Through this, we help young agriculturalists and scientists communicate with farmers.
- Seeing good member attendance at open days.
- Farmers using development stages in cereals to precisely time applications of chemicals and fertilisers.
- Repeat low dose weed control in Sugar Beet in the early days this was a breakthrough.
What 3 things do you think have changed most in agriculture over the years?
- Mechanisation especially in increased horsepower, sometimes this has been to the detriment of soils but I think that balance is being restored.
- IT in the tractor cab, although man years are wasted pressing buttons on the headlands! But the benefits of satellite guidance and communication can be huge.
- The drop in the staff numbers that we employ but also the increase in the quality of the staff that is required. This generates a huge training need.
Looking ahead, what useful role can TMAF play in agricultural research and education?
- It is important that the industry gains knowledge and, from that, wisdom in crop agronomy. To illustrate this, it is knowledgeable to know that the tomato is a fruit but wisdom tells us not to put it in a fruit salad!
- We need good agronomists to give us wise advice. How to make less go further, especially with energy requirements.
- Encourage new entrants into the industry. It is a good place to be employed.
How might farming become different?
The environmental impact of agriculture is under debate but it cannot be right to import produce that we are able to grow in this country. The true environmental cost of imported produce needs to be highlighted.
To those joining or thinking of joining the TMAF committee, what advice would you give?
The more you put in the more you get out.
Get younger, not older, but keep the wisdom of experience!