Neil Thomson

My hope last month that we would finish sowing the beans and continue planting the spring barley into a nice warm, moist seed-bed has been well and truly dashed.

But we did make a start drilling barley on April Fool’s Day, albeit not in the conditions that would pass the test of Farmers Weekly columnist David Richardson’s father who, to remind you, said “the farmer should take down his trousers and sit on the seed-bed and not feel the cold in his nether regions”. I didn’t even need to think about dropping my breeks as the icy air blowing about my face soon told me how cold my backside would have been. But I thought it was essential to get going and Steven our first-class new man was eager to get some acres under his belt.

I hope my impatience will not be the downfall of our barley crops, because that same day Adam the agronomist and I agreed our oilseed rape was not going to make it. The cause was a lack of patience in the autumn when the crop was sown in very poor conditions. Green shoots of hope were appearing only two weeks earlier, but no sooner were they apparent, the bitter easterlies, frost and pigeons soon ravaged any green to be found.

I am not the only one to have had to rip up rape crops in this area, but it is very disheartening. I only grow rape on our own farm on fields that are unsuitable for vegetables, as I have been enchanted by the healthy margins that rape has been making in the last number of years. But the truth is, rape complicates my farming system even more. So it is decision time.

Do I stop growing rape completely? However, no other combinable break crop can produce such a good gross margin and surely we will have a normal year from now on?

Neil Thomson farms 607ha in partnership with his father and brother from Caverton Mill, Kelso, on the Scottish Borders, growing combinable crops and brassicas. Some of the mainly medium loam is let for potatoes, and the QMS Monitor Farm also has cattle and sheep.

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