Tongue End grower reviews the past farming year

Julian Davis.
Julian Davis.

With Downton and Dr Who out the way, the post-Christmas period is often a good time to review the year’s activities.

2013 has been a year of recovery, especially for our soils. Living with fields that could as easily have been used for fish farming as arable is neither comfortable nor profitable, but after the very wet 2012 there wasn’t much choice.

This autumn, post-harvest cultivations went reasonably well, although we were running short of moisture by the last week of September, not ideal for encouraging blackgrass to germinate. Then October was inconveniently wet. So much so I had to drag the plough out of the nettles. Most of my heavier fields have not seen a plough for years and some had moved from min-till to scratch and direct drilling. This process has dramatically improved soil structure but allowed an increase in blackgrass populations. I had therefore decided, although ploughing is not good for sustainable soil structure, to plough some fields when necessary. This year my hand was forced as fields became too wet, with October seeing very few good drilling days. I suppose this year has exposed the dilemma. Delaying drilling greatly increases the control of blackgrass but can increase crop establishment problems.

I wish you all happy farming for the New Year – let’s hope that the damage inflected by the UK Government’s meddling in CAP reform is not too great.