As usual we have had a good run of sugar beet delivered to the Wissington factory in January and the sugar percentage has increased since the earlier lift. With luck this will take our eventual yield very close to 80t/ha.

This is quite remarkable considering that in early June the crop was decimated by hail storms and I nearly had to redrill it. The excellent growing conditions this autumn have no doubt helped, coupled with slightly delayed harvesting and good storage conditions between harvest and delivery.

The relatively mild weather is allowing other crops to grow well between the occasional frosts, although we have to be vigilant about pigeon and rabbit control.

I have some winter ploughing for sugar beet to finish nearer spring and a little spring wheat to drill when conditions allow, so I have not really shut down land work for the winter. This is deliberate, as the later ploughing minimises wind erosion risk on the beet land and the “spring” wheat after late-lifted beet will have less bulb fly pressure.

We played our part as usual in the excellent local Straw Bear festival weekend here at Whittlesey. The main event on the Saturday was superb, with record numbers of visitors lining the streets and filling the pubs and restaurants for a good-natured day of singing and dancing.

This local event is steeped in agricultural tradition and is rounded off on Sunday evening with a “Plough Sunday” service in one of our local churches. This is an enjoyable event and we were pleased once again to be involved.

Back in 2000, I started a contract farming arrangement with the Whitton family on their farm a few miles away at Glinton. Unfortunately Stuart Whitton passed away in 2005, but I was pleased to carry on working with his widow Betty until recently.

Sadly she passed away just before Christmas, but the legacy of their life and passion for farming, community and the countryside will be long remembered. Betty’s knowledge of agronomic and business challenges was incredible, and her generosity and hospitality was legendary.

Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on 300ha of fenland and other soil types at Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire.

Read more from Philip Bradshaw


Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers