The effect of the credit crunch on organic food and farming has been much discussed of late. As usual quasi-statistics have been bandied around by both sides and the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
From my perspective it would be no bad thing if the growth of the organic market cooled a bit. For several years the excessive growth in demand for arable crops has been not matched by pretty static home supply, thus sucking in more imports.
I understand that one big East Anglian feed mill has switched entirely to eastern European sources, presumably because it is fed up with scouring the countryside for dwindling supplies.
So as “UK Agriculture plc” are we really the world-class cereal producers we claim to be if we export a basic commodity and import the highest-value material?
So much about organic farming is a case of trial and error – sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. At this time of year I can evaluate the effect of everything we try.
A definite hit has been using approved natural growth promoters on potatoes, particularly those based on yucca plant extracts. I’m sufficiently encouraged to do more trials next year.
A distinct failure is the use of sweet clover, a recent import. It doesn’t perform in the year you plant it and turns into a voracious smothering volunteer the next when you don’t want it.
I’m also aware of some serious problems of taint in crops grown for human consumption in which sweet clover is present, which in the worst cases has caused product recalls at huge expense.
I notice it’s been added to many shooting cover mixes and I’d urge any shoot manager to be careful to destroy the crop before planting the next.