Arable Farmer Focus: Tow rope rescues Seth Pascoe

A while ago, Farmers Weekly ran a survey to determine farming’s most useful invention. Understandably, I think, the mobile phone topped the list.

However, the humble tow rope is a worthy contender. Loyal, willing, undemanding and standing by, the baler-twine-on-steroids will eagerly attempt to rescue any stranded item of farm machinery no matter how big or small. And, unlike a mobile phone, it doesn’t really mind when you throw it into a dusty workshop corner or drag it through thick mud. Even better, there’s no monthly bill to deal with either.

At a farm show this spring, we were seduced by a “show-special price” and decided to replace our elderly tow rope. In doing so, perhaps we inadvertently jinxed ourselves and brought the onslaught of rain that has caused all our problems. I certainly didn’t anticipate using the new tow rope quite as much. It’s making an appearance around the farm almost daily; it is so familiar it almost needs a name. It’s like an umbilical cord, providing a lifeline to the stricken sprayer as we struggle to get across the potato crop.

We planted 122ha (305 acres) of potatoes, this spring. My educated guess is we have approximately 80ha (200 acres) remaining of decent crop. A 20ha (50 acre) field has already been written off as a total loss by our crop insurance and we have a claim pending for flooded parts in other fields that will be a similar if not larger area.

Industry speculation is that at least 20% of the Alberta processing potato crop has been lost. If you include the contract reductions too, then potato tonnage produced in the province will be drastically reduced this season. It’s a gloomy outlook for harvest 2010 already and the daunting reality is we are now entering our prime hail risk period.

• For more columns from Seth Pascoe

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