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WORD ON THE GROUND: Fighting wet weather, COVID-19 and Brexit

Seems 2020 has developed into another wet weather, challenging autumn again, but thankfully not nearly as bad as last year.

Locally again quiet a lot of fields intended for autumn sowing will remain uncropped until the spring.

Extreme weather is not entirely to blame for this. A change of cropping practise also plays its part especially with much less autumn sown oil seed rape as a result of the withdrawal of the neonicotiniod pesticide which due to the pest ‘Cabbage Stem Flee Beetle’ has made the establishment of this crop very unreliable for lots of farmers.

Tony Gent (43295189)
Tony Gent (43295189)

In the past we would have resorted to a change in our cultivation methods and resorted to a much coarser seed bed system, on heavier soils, using a tined-based system. Lots of heavy soils are now in such a degraded condition due to years of intensive cultivation it makes resorting to these methods much more difficult.

Also, with the loss of an effective contact herbicide, it makes control of grass weeds, especially the dreaded ‘black grass, much more challenging.

With our 12 years or so of ‘no-till’, we have improved our soil tremendously and are now in a better position to withstand these extremes, although we are not quiet there on the heaviest fields and if we are going see more of these wet years, some tweaking of our rotation and technique may be needed, although we cannot undo the massive improvement to our soil structure that we have evolved so far.

As I write, the Brexit debacle is still rambling on in the shadow of the other ‘government on the back foot’, money-consuming mess COVID-19.

We still have no agreement with the all-important trading arrangements with the EU.

Hopefully, with a threat of a disastrous ‘ no deal’ for the UK, sense will prevail with a realisation that we really cannot have our cake and eat it. We are the one jumping out into cold and they understandably have their cost-effective, free trading area to protect. With ‘no-deal’ resulting in export tariff of 95 eur/tonne for wheat, 80.5 eur/100kg for sheep for instance this could be a major game changer for the economics of commodities such as this to UK farming.

Fingers crossed we will reach a deal and avoid a situation that leads to massive regrets for both food producers with unfair competition standards causing poor profitability and consumers with increased costs, unreliable supply and lower standards.

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