Farmer Focus Arable: Martin Lawrenson is pleased with barley yields

After a fantastic two-week holiday in the Vendée region of France I returned refreshed and raring to crack on with harvest.

A start had been made on the winter barley and we finished it a couple of days later. Yields were pretty pleasing and we had a good crop of quality straw.

Farming in a mainly livestock producing area, our straw is important to us and, at current prices, it generates nearly as much income as the grain.

Spring barley is next in line and with crops ready and we’ll start cutting as soon as the spell of showery weather improves.

Potato harvest was progressing nicely until the end of July. Since then trade has slowed down, with volumes moved dropping right back. I hope the usual boost in local trade due to the switch on of the Blackpool illuminations will help things get moving again.

Yields have so far been above average and quality good. Apparently this is common around the country, so I don’t hold out much hope of prices improving. At under £100/t growing potatoes seems at times a lot of work for not much reward.

One of my least favourite jobs is spraying the potatoes for blight. Our policy over the past few years has been to use cheaper fungicides like mancozeb or Curzate (cymoxanil) and spray at seven-day intervals regardless of the weather or Smith periods.

This worked well until our summers seemed to get wetter, which saw me running along tramlines week after week producing ruts into which I could easily disappear.

This year we have used an array of expensive products which claim to be highly effective, especially when blight pressure is low. However, when blight risk is high the advice on the label is (you guessed it) spray at seven-day intervals.

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