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Case Study: Hugh Black

Hugh Black, Backboath, Near Forfar

Hugh farms Backboath near Forfar in partnership with his father James.  The business extends to around
400 ha, 50 ha of which is rented ground.  Although there is some variation in soil type, most soils at Backboath are sandy loams.  James and Hugh produce winter wheat, winter and spring barley, oilseed rape and potato crops.  They operate a six to seven-year rotation with two breaks.

Hugh already carries out full GPS soil analysis on a 6-year rotation and uses precision agriculture techniques such as variable-rate spreading for lime.  Hugh imports manures and digestate, both to supplement inorganic fertilisers and improve soil organic matter.

Find out more about Hugh in the videos below.

What's next?

Hugh would like to maintain outputs but cut back on inputs, for example, reduce chemical use.  Hugh is interested in monitoring the variation in soil health experienced across his rotation, especially before and after the potato crop.  Hugh said Potatoes are the most invasive crop to the soils here and this means the soils are cultivated more often to establish a good growing environment for the finished fresh potatoes on the shelf. We want to guarantee we are regenerative in our rotation of soil health and structure in order to produce in future”.


Potatoes are a key aspect of the farm business.  Hugh acknowledges that intensive cultivations associated with producing potatoes mean farm soils can be more vulnerable to damage.  Maintaining and protecting soil health across the farm will be one of the areas Hugh will be focusing on through the group.

This Case Study is available to download here.


There is little to no field activity at Backboath at this time of year, however, utilising the quieter time of year can provide an opportunity to review crop establishment and soil health. . This is the latest update from Backboath as of 17th December 2021.

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Warm weather in Angus has cheered many farmers up with harvest only just around the corner. This is the July update from Backboath as of 20th July 2021.
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With spring sowing complete, and the weather too cool for planting potatoes, Hugh has taken the opportunity to get caught up on spring work while the ground conditions allow.  Here we have an update from Backboath.
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As predicted the arrival of sheep at Backboath prompted the fall of snow. Nevertheless, Hugh continues to integrate livestock in his arable rotation at a quieter time of year for the arable enterprises. Below are several observations from January 2021.

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The trials at Backboath certainly haven’t tapered off, instead Hugh’s determination to compare many different methods of production is in full swing.
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As part of an SRDP AECS scheme, Hugh has sown a field of green manure mix. At the start of July this crop has been mown down to feed the soil; improve the nutrient status in the top profile layers, increase the organic matter and help sequester carbon. Find out more below.
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A busy period at Backboath has resulted in many on-farm trials as Hugh Black continues to experiment with cereal production. From new establishment techniques to new crops and different crop combinations, there is certainly a lot to see at Backboath Farm! Below are a few observations from May 2020
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