Blue skies lie ahead for Andy Barr

My completely unscientific farm experiments have confirmed to me what the experts have been advising – that in direct drilled crops, fertiliser in the row with the seed has advantages over broadcast. “Aha!” you say, “We always used to do that.”

Indeed, thinking about my new foray into no-till, I awoke the other night in a cold sweat with visions of an as yet unborn grandchild enthusiastically describing to me their latest new tool: “Look, it completely inverts the soil.”

If the latest BBSRC Business magazine is anything to go by, I shall also want to place a type of fungi with the seed to boost growth. Reading of such innovations convinces me that human ingenuity will find ways to feed a population of 10 billion. Apparently, if they all lived in one city it would be the size of France, which sounds a good way for us to enjoy farming undisturbed while still being close to the market.

The BBSRC measures progress of projects from initial “Blue Skies” through various research levels to the “Market”. Possibly too many researchers have been soaring around in the blue skies rather than getting muddy, and I hope and expect that the BBSRC has some actual growers involved in projects from start to finish.

The dangers of each end of the chain not talking were highlighted to me on a recent British Cereal Exports (BCE) trip to the European Bourse in The Netherlands. I spoke to Dutch millers who hadn’t heard of the soft wheat variety Invicta, but were expecting more Robigus to be grown in the UK. At the Bourse, I spoke to one global merchant who’d been approached by an FSU-based farming company wishing to market 1m tonnes of grain and it hit home to me how insignificant even the largest UK grower is if acting alone.

Farmer focus: Andy Barr

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