Farmer Focus Arable: Andrew Charlton gets on with spring jobs

Someone upstairs turned on the switch marked “spring” on 9 March and since then there’s been the usual rush to get on top of the job.

This year’s spring cropping is mainly Firth oats for human consumption, and a smaller area of Westminster barley to be undersown with red clover.

Rapid growth following the long cold spell gives us the usual problems with manganese deficiency, which is unavoidable on these very alkaline soils – their average pH is around 7.9.

Manganese sulphate application is controlled by derogation from the organic licensing bodies. That in turn depends on tissue analysis results -all very slow when the symptoms of Mn deficiency spread so quickly through the crop.

This year I’ve also opted for routine sulphur application applied in the form of elemental S in three season-long treatments each of 5kg/ha – again this requires derogation from the licensing body.

Mixing sulphur before spraying is probably my least favourite job. Turning the material from powder to gloop to something likely to dissolve in the tank takes a lot of effort, and you can forget such luxuries as using the induction hopper.

As the last of the 2008 harvest grain leaves the farm I wonder if anyone else has noticed the long and lengthening delays in getting weighbridge results back.

If I want to know what money went in or out of my bank account yesterday I simply look it up on the web. Why then does it take up to seven weeks to get sight of one five digit number – a service I pay for but have no control over?

Is the data scrutinised by the CIA? Does Gordon Brown sign off every weighbridge ticket? And, more to the point, has anyone ever raised a “critical failure” against the end users for such delays?

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