Farmer Focus: Kit advances help keep up with food demand

A couple of years ago I was ploughing a field for spring cropping and my father Terry was cultivating and pressing behind me.

As we finished, I paused and picked up a horseshoe lying in the furrow.

We both reflected on our day’s work – 20ha ploughed, cultivated and pressed with two 300hp tractors, one running a nine-furrow wagon plough and the other a 30ft cultivator and roller duo, both running on autosteer.

What would that man who had spent the week trudging up and down behind a team of Clydesdale horses when that shoe was lost have thought?

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Two of us had done in a day what would have taken four teams of horses at least a week to achieve. It wasn’t that long ago, less than a century, not much more than a lifetime, and that lost shoe was still right there in the field.

That horseshoe sure has seen remarkable change and incredible progress.

My father and grandfather had the first David Brown Cropmaster in the Thames Valley, I learned to drive on an 880 and started contracting with a 1294 and 1694.

My three boys are growing up sitting with me in a machine that is being guided up the field by satellites at 20mm accuracy. I wonder what changes they will be part of?

David Clark's father Terry combining grass seed © David Clark

David Clark’s father Terry combining grass seed © David Clark

With these quantum leaps in productivity as a result of all the technological advancements available to us, we as food producers have been able to keep pace with feeding an ever-increasing global population with reducing areas of arable land and, relatively speaking, food prices have unfortunately never been cheaper.

I’m not so sure that the general public really get that, to be honest. I reckon they would all be getting pretty hungry if they were waiting for me to get that shoe back on the horse.

Harvest is bashing on, but we are having a bit of a wet spell out here at present. Hopefully by the time you read this, we will have it in the silo.

David Clark runs a 463ha fully irrigated mixed farm with his wife Jayne at Valetta, on the Canterbury Plains of New Zealand’s south island. He grows 400ha of cereals, pulses, forage and vegetable seed crops, runs 1,000 Romney breeding ewes and finishes 8,000 lambs annually.