Farmer Focus: Concerns over fusarium levels in wheat crops

Harvest 2017 has started. The earliest we can remember for many years with winter barley showing slightly improved quality and yield compared with 2016.

By the time you are reading this, we will be well into the oilseed rape harvest, all crops having been sprayed off with glyphosate by 7 July.

I have some concerns over the observable fusarium levels in the ripening wheat crops. I don’t think this will be a high yield season but hopefully, better prices triggered by high temperatures in other parts of the world should still leave us more profitable than recent years.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Defra secretary Michael Gove’s one-word answer to a question about farm support capping confirmed what many expect.

Most farmers hope any cap lies well above their own personal claim, but remember the average UK farm’s cultivable area is 54ha, the average UK payment is £30,180 and the UK government will have to defend any decision to a cynical public.

Hopefully, funds shaved off can be redistributed through new Rural Enterprise Grants initiatives rather than being lost to other government departments. In particular, new initiatives encouraging farm building construction are long overdue.

In June we hosted a series of farm visits from a local secondary school. This was enjoyable and successful. The enthusiasm of the children was infectious with some excellent engagement.

For those farms unwilling to compete in a well covered local Open Farm Sunday marketplace, school visits are another vital way to potentially engage tomorrow’s customers.

Variety trials

Our local agronomy group recently organised a successful meeting at our Bayer variety trials. A soil pit helped graphically demonstrate our soil structure and gave us useful cultivation pointers.

A Rothamsted scientist additionally gave us an interesting crash course on earthworm biology, leaving us with a much better appreciation of the relationships between earthworms, tillage and soil health.

I look forward to the variety trial results to help us decide next year’s cropping.

I was very saddened to hear of the death of John Alliston who I saw regularly. It’s rare to find someone so enthusiastic and genuinely interested in hearing your news.

British agriculture has lost a wise, unique and legendary champion.


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.