Allan Chambers farms 270ha (670 acres) of medium stony loam at Tullynaskeagh Farm, Co Down, with brother David growing cereals, grass for haylage, maize and potatoes.

With soil temperatures at 6C in mid April, all crop growth is almost at a standstill. Everything has a Gordon Brown appearance – a tired, stressed, “will I make it through to better times?” look.

But plant counts are fine, and I am confident that three weeks from now we will see a massive change in appearance.

I am hoping that by the time you read this potato planting should be finished and our 18ha of forage maize will have been drilled.

The wheats have had their CCC (chlormequat) tank mix with 1 litre/ha of Bravo (chlorothalonil), but May Day kickstarts spraying in earnest.

Thankfully, it’s a job I enjoy. Estimating yields is my favourite pastime and there is no better place to do it on a regular basis than when driving through the fields.

Now to my rant. In Northern Ireland, if a farmer buys three 2ha fields from a neighbour and removes two hedgerows to make one decent-sized area, he will, under cross-compliance regulations, have his single farm payment reduced.

The penalty applies, despite the RSPB acknowledging that this part of the UK has three times the length of hedgerows required to comfortably sustain our wildlife. Sometimes I despair.

Why penalise efficiency by keeping farmers working in fields designed for horse-drawn implements? Do the civil servants who dream up these regulations not understand the need for increased food production?

Mistake of the month. I was hauling a load of farmyard manure through a narrow gateway and caught the left-hand-side spreader tyre on the homemade angle-iron gate hanger. Ripped the tyre beyond repair, which resulted in four hours downtime.

The local tyre depot is used by all the neighbours, so this is not news to everyone.

allanchambersni@btconnect.com