While lifting conditions have been near ideal, Allan Stevenson increasingly has his eye on the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition standards required under the SFP system.

“We’ve been anticipating them,” he says.

Multiple machinery passes with his two-row production method inevitably create wheelings – ideal channels for soil erosion on sloping land especially as the farm irrigates.

Already all land for next season’s potatoes has been ridged up.

“We did that in August.

“In spring we’ll follow with the fertiliser, tine through the baulks and reform them.

We’ll then go through with a rotary harrow, destoner and finally the planter.”

Each pass compacts the wheelings and raises the risk of water run-off and erosion.

Defensive tied-ridging, forming mini-dams with specialist equipment across the channels, would not suit New Hall Farm’s heavier soils, he believes.

“Instead we tried tining the wheelings as a trial on three acres last year.”

The technique allowed water to filter into the land rather than flow off, Mr Stevenson explains.

Indeed it was so successful that 40% of this year’s crop received the treatment.

“Next season we’ll do all the vulnerable areas.

I guess it costs about 12/ha.

It’s another cost nail in the coffin, but if it guards our SFP it’s good insurance.

“I thought we might have problems with traction at harvest, but so far it’s been OK.”

Now the only wheelings untined are left by the sprayer every 24m.

andrew.blake@rbi.co.uk