Moulton farmer talks rain and energy crops

Richard Barlow.
Richard Barlow.

Last week’s news was full of the devastating floods in the north west of the country, yet when I look outside, our farm pond, which historically provided water for all the farm’s animals, is dry, writes Richard Barlow.

Likewise all our dykes. Our rainfall records show that we have had just under 16in so far this year. This compares to approximately 24in for all of 2014 and 20in for 2013. Unless we get above average rainfall in the next three months we could be in for a ‘dry’ 2016, but as we have had such a long period of mild southerly winds, one would predict we are due a cold spell of weather which normally means dry weather.

Though dry, we have had plenty of wind, which is good news for the wind turbine we have an interest in at Long Sutton. Like most farmers, over the last five years we have invested in renewable energy projects and they are now supporting many farm incomes, which have seen the prices of all their traditional ‘food’ crops plummet. As part of a local group of farmers, we had started to look at building a small AD plant (anaerobic digestion). This is where the equivalent of a cow’s stomach is built and the gases produced are burnt to generate electricity. The advantage of AD plants over other forms of renewable energies is that it generates 24 hours a day, and when there is no wind. Unfortunately, last September the government changed the rules, and at a stroke made the risks of investment too great. Yet they are still promoting the construction of ridiculously expensive off–shore wind turbines which we are all going to pay for in ever increasing electricity bills. Small scale AD plants, where the feed crops are grown on the farmer’s own land, should be being encouraged. Politicians, however, have a track record of showing little common sense!