©Alexandra Joseph

Our autumn drilling was completed with excellent timing the night before the first bout of autumn rain.

I could be a smug git and leave it at that, but actually a few years ago we wouldn’t have finished at all.

A fair part of it is down to our increased spring cropping these days. However, this is not to detract from my vast workforce’s excellent efforts.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

He admirably got it all done before his back completely gave up, thankfully ignoring the doctor’s helpful advice to “get another job”.

Drilling was interspersed with various different drill demos and I’m hoping for more in the spring as I seek to move to another level of drilling direct (in between thinking how mad I would be to spend any more money with the current crop returns).

I have also, on the suggestion of the conservation agriculture organisation Base UK, set up what may be a long-term comparison of cover crops and direct drilling next to ploughing and powered tillage.

In hindsight it would have been good to have had the foresight to do this 15 years ago, but such is the speed of my brain.

The Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) recently held their autumn meeting, and while I am not a member, I do like independent advice.

I was therefore intrigued to spot a Twitter post depicting the title of the event as “The future of crop consultancy – is it time for a paradigm shift?”

It turns out this isn’t a new type of stepless gear change for their Freelanders, but in fact an entirely different pattern of thinking.

We do seem to be accumulating a number of critical issues within our present system; sustainability is called for yet we are entirely dependent on non-renewable resources, the chemicals don’t work or are banned, biodiversity needs a boot and, possibly most pressingly, we’re losing money.

So I hope their answer to that question was “yes” and it went beyond tweaking chemical mixes or rates. I would like to shift my paradigm too, I’m just not sure whereabouts to put it or if my loader has the capacity to lift it.


Andy Barr farms 630ha on a mixed family farm in Kent, including 430ha mainly of winter wheat, oilseed rape and spring barley. The rest is in an OELS scheme and grazing for 500 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle