Andy Barr is obsessed by rain

I like to think my wife was joking when she wondered aloud whether “an obsession with rain” had ever been cited in divorce proceedings.

To be honest, it was difficult to catch the intonation in her voice as I was busy studying the rainfall radar on the internet – we are battling against spreader problems as we attempt to apply urea in front of a promised few millimetres of precipitation. NIAB TAG trials keep pointing to there being no difference in crop performance from using urea and it offers substantial cost savings, but I do like to have at least a little moisture forecast in case.

Although we think the weather has recently gone a bit haywire, 25 years ago today the fields were so wet we resorted to putting dual wheels on the tractor to spread fertiliser and later that year were hit by a physically and emotionally devastating hurricane. The reason I am reminded is my entire full-time arable workforce has just completed 25 years on the farm – thank-you Richard.

I wish someone would get to the bottom of the neonicotinoid insecticide/bee decline story. Call me “organic”, but I try and avoid spraying non-selective insecticides and had thought that using this new generation of oilseed rape seed treatments and not applying a pyrethroid spray was a good thing.

There is no other option at the moment and, as Prof Brown of the John Innes Centre says, we are left to look to plant breeding for the answer. It will be interesting to see if his prediction of the era of pesticides being on the way out is correct, but, like it or not, current varieties have been bred to require high pesticide inputs.

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