Farmer Focus Arable: Andrew Charlton finds dry solution to damp crops

One of the frustrations of being a small, tenant farmer is the lack of access to three-phase electricity.

I don’t blame the landlords for this, but the electricity companies price themselves out of the market. The last time I asked for a quote to supply three-phase, I abandoned the process as the estimated costs rose above £15,000 – and I suspect they can go beyond that.

However, I am convinced that high-capacity fans blowing 24 hours a day are the best solution to dry cereals, and this can best be achieved through three-phase fans. Consequently, I have hired a generator for the first time this year and, while it is not a cheap option, it appears to be effective, as some very damp wheat was dried from 18% in five days.

The alternative solution is to use a tractor-powered fan, but this is not practicable. The store in question is half a mile away from the house, surrounded by private houses whose residents may object to the noise. More importantly, the tractor for such jobs is a 45-year-old David Brown 780, which the kids would never forgive me if I blew it up in the middle of the night.

You might think that the sudden price jump in the conventional cereals market would be matched in the organic world too. But this is largely not the case, mainly because UK demand for organic grain is still driven by imports. Yet despite the much reported drop in organic food sales, we are still unable to meet demand for feed grains, in particular, from our own production.

A large proportion of organic grain imports come from Kazakhstan, which is considering whether to follow Russia’s lead in imposing an export ban for grains. If that happens, the organic grain market could get very interesting indeed.

• For more from Andrew Charlton click here
• Read other columns from our arable Farmer Focus writers.

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