Farmer Focus : Chris Harrold - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus : Chris Harrold

Last week”s weekly Anglia weather forecast stated the region had recorded a very dry winter. Not in the last month – I”ve tipped out exactly 100mm in 28 days to Mar 12, mainly from daily snow and sleet showers. Temperatures rarely got above 3C and the wind stuck stubbornly in the north. With nothing between us and the North Pole it”s been miserable to say the least.

But am I pleased nitrogen went on a month ago, with travelling now difficult and a strong wind all week. With temperatures rising the winter barley is now getting on with it.

No doubt like the rest of you, I have been attending endless meetings relating to the single payment scheme and, more recently, the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme. By and large I have got to grips with the schemes apart from dealing with the registration of “other land” on the Rural Land Register. With a considerable area of woods, lakes, former World War II runways and buildings, our IACS 22 application, if not dealt with quickly by DEFRA will prevent us getting our ELS application in on the first entry date.

Access to the ELS should be fairly painless – thanks to historically keeping hedges in good condition. A preliminary points count indicates most will come from hedge options, meaning very few costly options will be required.

Organic Meli spring beans were finally drilled on Mar 16, at 200kg/ha using our Vaderstad drill immediately following the plough. Vining peas followed on, Cabree going in at 215kg/ha on light land. After drilling the field, I was relieved to continue the next day after the previous night”s forecast rain failed to materialise.

And by the time you read this, with any luck we”ll have started potato planting and got some beet in.

efharrold@farming.co.uk

Farmer Focus: Chris Harrold

LAST WEEK we spread 125kg/ha of Kemira”s Double top, giving 34kg/ha N plus 37kg/ha sulphur, on all 170ha (420 acres) of Maris Otter and Pearl winter barley. Field conditions were good; the Fastrac hardly left a mark.

In my quest to avoid the visual striping that we have been suffering the last year or two, especially after using sulphur/nitrogen compounds, we have changed our old spreader for a 4t Bogballe mounted twin disc spreader, which came out well in tests carried out last year when compared with other similar machines.

 Preparation of land ready for potato planting is going to plan with about a third ploughed in good condition and ready for the bed-former. The remainder has had turkey litter spread at 12-16t/ha plus P, K and magnesium depending on soil analysis and variety. It is mixed in as soon as possible with a 6m Lemken Terradisc, not only to disguise the pong, but to retain the nutrients. We then like to plough immediately prior to bed-forming with a three bed-former before separating and then planting. This system gives us the most reliable results probably because we are inverting dry soil, which, in turn, reduces the risk of compaction and/or slumping should heavy rain follow shortly after planting.

 This year”s organic crops will be spring beans and spring barley. The beans, which are the variety Meli, will be drilled in the next week or so at 200kg/ha, following wheat and destined for animal feed. The barley will be Cellar and will probably by drilled in early March at 190kg/ha. That is much later than our conventional barley to reduce the weed pressure. The barley follows wheat which was under-sown successfully with clover last spring and hopefully will give sufficient nutrients to produce an organic malting sample.

efharrold@farming.co.uk

Farmer Focus: Chris Harrold

A LOCAL FARMER taking part in a BBC Radio Five Live broadcast recently asked Rural Affairs minister Alun Michael: “Isn’t it time the government allowed us to label food products so the customers can make a choice about whether to buy our products or those from other shores?”

His response was that labelling was a question of requirements and added: “I won’t deny that farming has gone through a period of pressure and great change. The farming industry around the world is doing away with the sort of controls that we have had in the past, but we need to be able to compete.”

The issue of food labelling is one I feel very strongly about and must be addressed by the government as they, and only they, can influence the processors and supermarkets alike. What is the NFU doing? The Little Red Tractor, good, yes but not enough on its own. All food must display the country of origin clearly with a flag of the respective country or some easily identifiable mark.

Take “Smoked Scottish Salmon” and “Scottish Smoked Salmon”. Only one is Scottish, the other can come from anywhere. Closer to home is Broadland Hams, the bacon and ham curers. Very good it is too, but the name would imply ham from the Norfolk broads. I was horrified to learn that not all their pork is British. The consumer is being misled, badly.

How can the government expect us to compete when all they do is continue to make more and more red tape, and impose welfare and production standards as high or higher than anywhere in the world, which add costs to our commodities. We’re exporting our industry, why can’t they see it? Look at the pig industry for example, the farmer interviewed on Radio Five packed up a few years ago; we’re still in, just.

Addressing the above issues alone won’t put us right but would certainly go a long way towards it.

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