Farmer Focus: Conservation work progresses in showery weather for Edward Tupper

Edward Tupper farms 700ha (1730 acres) on the South Downs near Petworth, West Sussex and manages a further 112ha (277 acres) on contract. Crops include wheat, oilseed rape, barley, maize and grass for a 175-cow dairy.

Well, April did not disappoint with its showers. Whenever we got going with fertilising or spraying, the rain came thundering down again.

One bright note is that we have managed to sow the pollen and nectar mixes with wild downland flowers in areas under the Higher Level Stewardship scheme, and six Sussex pedigree in-calf heifers have arrived as lawnmowers for the downland restoration.

Continuing the conservation theme, detailed scrub management plans have been drawn up highlighting areas of high priority. Lots of exciting suggestions and views have been put forward, regarding the use of self-propelled machines and chainsaws, but again, with an eye on the ever-increasing cost of fuel, I feel the only question is “how much is a box of matches?”

By the time you read this we should hopefully have started sowing one of the most important crops on the farm. I get more books and leaflets regarding this crop than any other. The choices are endless. This year it will again consist of a forage plant and is planted on the same piece of ground, which is on steep slopes, and seems to get more love and attention than a potential four-tonne wheat crop.

While reading the latest ACCS booklet for this year’s harvest, I noticed a new section that caught my eye. Did you know that you cannot go clay-pigeon shooting over a crop after 31 March, or yellow bud stage, whichever is the latter?

I am all for food hygiene and traceability, but isn’t that taking things a bit too far? With that in mind, I am sending the dog on an intensive training course so he can learn to pick up broken clays. I think he has a busy summer ahead!

Edward Tupper

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