Farmer Focus: Autumn drilling moves close to completion

The extraordinary red skies widely seen across the UK preluding the arrival of ex-hurricane Ophelia fittingly marked another step change to this season’s irregular weather and field work has more or less stopped since.

Early October gave a much-needed window to do the majority of our autumn drilling and harvest the forage maize, which yielded well.

We are now left with about 35ha of winter wheat to drill on fields with high blackgrass levels in early November. This year’s wheat varieties include Crusoe, Graham, Costello, Montana, Sundance and Bassett.

This week, glyphosate had another stay of execution with the key vote in Brussels deferred until November.

It should not be taking so long for Eurocrats to settle this issue which has made forward planning so difficult. I still hope for a positive outcome to the benefit of farming, the environment and the public.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

With the other uncertainties of a potential “no-deal” Brexit, reduced subsidy support and farm labour shortages, this priority subject needs closure. We cannot increase productivity if our best technological tools are taken away.

Insecticides are again in the spotlight following a study in Germany showing declining insect numbers on nature reserves. I wonder what roles artificial light sources, milder climates and the loss of livestock farming systems have played in these observations?

Grain co-operatives

Off-farm, I enjoy being a director for the Wiltshire Grain co-operative. This society has been intrinsic to our own harvesting operations and transports, stores and markets crops better than can be done on farm, releasing buildings and labour for other uses.

Subject to a future member’s vote we are exploring the possibility of a potential merger with two other local, similar co-operatives.

Working together should allow us to save costs, capture new markets and create a collective group more resilient to the changes inevitable over the next few years than we would be alone.

UK grain co-operatives will likely continue to increase their market share closer to those levels seen in Europe for sound reasons.

During recent weekends my family and I have enjoyed walking some of the ancient paths in the county such as the Wansdyke and Ridgeway. There is so much history to see in Wiltshire other than Stonehenge; I should have visited these free treasures on my doorstep long before now.


David Butler farms just south of Marlborough in Wiltshire in partnership with his parents. He also runs a contracting company and farms about 870ha of combinable crops alongside a herd of 280 dairy cows.