THE SP5 forms are now dropping through the letter boxes of potential single farm payment claimants. While it has always been important to make sure information entered on any form is correct, we have not previously had to fill in forms that give a one-off chance to register and obtain the right to claim payment for the next eight years.

It is also worth noting, as with the old IACS forms, any alterations or additions will not be countenanced after the May deadline. That makes it worthwhile getting on with it and sending it in, which would leave time to alter or add to the form within the application window should DEFRA note any problems.

The dry weather continues. I think I heard the radio weatherman say we have only had 25% of the average rainfall since Christmas. Walking my dogs across the Brooks, a large section of River Arun floodplain, normally I should have to tread very carefully and would expect to see large areas of marsh and standing water. But the drainage ditches are only half-full and the cattle can graze where they please as they would in August.

Already there are mutterings of hose-pipe bans and other water restrictions but that could be just a start for the water companies if we only receive average rainfall. Winter rainfall does not suffer the longer days and warm dry air of the summer months and has the chance to soak into the ground to replenish the aquifers. As crops grow away in the spring and summer they not only require more water but also suck out large quantities of water from the lower levels. Warm summer days and wet nights are ideal for crop growth but it does not replenish the underground reservoirs.

 pgodwin@farmline.com