As I See it on the Land – April 2022

The weather has been kind for several weeks allowing tractor work to start on the spring workload. The winter wheats were looking a bit pale mid February, showing signs that indicated a little nitrogen was required to give them a kick start to the season. Mark sprayed on a small quantity of liquid nitrogen across all the fields. Within ten days the crops greened up and growth was very evident.

Across the marsh sprayers are at work, mostly spraying off the stubbles and green cover crops with glysophate, (roundup,) before the drills plant the spring crops. You will notice the stubbles gradually change from green to brown over the course of a few days. The cost of glysophate has risen dramatically this year. Gardeners will certainly notice the increase when purchasing at the garden centre!

The east wind has dried the fields enough to allow some of the cattle on neighbouring farms to be released from their winter quarters without poaching the ground. It is rare to turn cattle out in March and it will be an easy spring if the weather holds without a lot of rain. The shepherds will appreciate kind lambing weather too. We have hosted more sheep, from two farmers, on the stubbles along the canal. They have been retained in the fields by the use of electrified fencing. The system is so quick and easy to erect compared to the fencing I used to use. Reels of wire are attached to a frame which is driven by the quad bike tyre. As the quad bike moves forwards the two wires are laid out on the ground. The driver puts metal posts in the ground every 15 yards or so, and then places the wire into the two insulators on each post. Very clever and time saving. The only snag is if the battery ever gets low and any of the sheep learn how to escape.

Perhaps with lambing approaching it is a good time to remind people to keep their dogs under strict control. Dogs attacking sheep is a major national problem.

Our involvement with the Sustainable Farm Incentive is under considerable strain. DEFRA accept emails from my partner Mark, but refuse to send to him. They insist on sending everything to me in the office and I have to forward them to Mark to administer and answer them. He has spent hours communicating with DEFRA but cannot get answers to fairly basic questions. The compensation offered doesn’t look as if it will begin to cover the costs. It is highly likely we will withdraw from the scheme.

With the current wicked situation in Ukraine, every bit of land that can grow a crop in this country should be growing one this year. Setting good land aside for birds and bees may have to take second place this year.

There are not the farm workers available to plant the vital wheat growing areas in Ukraine and at the moment we are being told at best they may only get half the land sown. It is one of the bread basket growing areas of the world. Along with the loss of fuel due to sanctions, wheat will be in short supply next year. We are too reliant on other countries supplying our food and the government needs to take action to encourage and support home food production. Imports of meat are likely to be grown to lower welfare standards, and food crops grown using Genetically Modified seed (not allowed here yet) and chemicals that are banned in this country.

Chain saws are still at work trying to clear the debris from Eunice. Hedge rows all around the farm took a battering. The scout and guide campsite at Horton Green had several trees torn out of the ground. I had a lucky escape when logging a large poplar tree when a large branch twisted and hit me on the head and rolled down my back, pushing me to the ground. The chain saw was thrust into the soil. The crash helmet saved my life. Its another of my nine lives gone! Some of the trees are so large we have had to purchase a longer bladed chain saw. It is too heavy for me to use so I do get some help with the trunks!!

Peter Sillibourne