Will Howe

Over the decades there have been various concepts and tools that have revolutionised agricultural management.

Jethro Tull, plant breeding, the mobile phone and satellite steering to name a few; and yet the most obvious has been continually ignored while brazenly staring us in the face: the slug.

Many of you at this point will think I have finally lost my mind. I would vehemently disagree – that happened when I started grovelling on the floor collecting blackgrass seeds with a pair of tweezers to do germination tests.

When pondering this year’s cropping, I decided to “risk” growing wheat on 40ha and leave the other 300ha for spring drilling.

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The previous cropping history was spring beans/spring barley/winter oilseed rape, so therefore a “safe bet”.

Well as I lay in bed adjusting my Superman pyjamas the night after I finished the drilling, I commented to my long-suffering wife that I was already regretting my decision as I feared the onslaught from the blackgrass.

And who said romance was dead?

Little did I know that the slugs were so intent on my spring cropping the land again that they kindly hollowed out the majority of the wheat seed within a few days.

Having monitored this wonder of the natural world, I left the pre-em in the shed and have since been watching the blackgrass grow.

Many would say that it is at an acceptable level for a winter cereal, but there is too much for me and so a crop of spring barley will be the replacement.

Farming is one long compromise. Do you choose risk management or potential profit maximisation?

The more traditional members of the farming community believe I am taking a too great a risk in putting all my eggs in the spring-drilling basket, citing the possibility of a bad spring not allowing me to get drilled up.

The greater risk, as I see it, is growing a winter crop and getting blackgrass seed return. This, in my view, and evidently in Mr Slug’s view too, will be more detrimental than having no crop at all at today’s prices.

Fingers crossed the weather in the spring is OK and I am not made to look a complete novice!


Will Howe farms 384ha of medium to heavy land at Ewerby Thorpe Farm, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire, growing wheat, oilseed rape and winter beans.