Farmer Focus: Maize and the sugar beet are impressive

As anticipated the young oilseed rape plants have taken some nursing through the flea beetle barrier and with us already on the second insecticide application, it could well prove to be a busy time for the sprayer.

With wheat sowing almost complete and a good start made on the barley, it’s time to finish harvesting the forage maize and really get going on the sugar beet.

The maize has been a fantastic crop and to get harvest started in the second week of September must be exceptional, clearing a field of 3m-high crop (bragging again) certainly opens up the view and allows the gamekeepers to see where all of their birds have been hiding.

Thanks to two big applications of water via the old irrigators, the sugar beet certainly looks like a useful sort of crop. Early indications on sugar content are certainly much greater than at the start of last year’s campaign, but it’s a long time until we finish lifting this crop in February.

Back on the reservoir and AD construction sites, the fantastic weather has certainly helped to ensure that we stick tight to the build programme. This has been vital to ensure that we hit the window to satisfy the grant aid from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which is assisting to provide the water storage so vital on this light land.

It has also been crucial to ensure that the AD plant is producing biomethane before the Department of Energy and Climate Change has a chance to reduce the Renewable Heat Incentive – so important in ensuring the viability of these significant investments.

I suppose that the next job had better be to check that we have enough ecological focus areas to satisfy the new rules.

Given the uncertainty around using hedgerows to score percentage points, we will be relying on our HLS and ELS to include wild bird areas, summer fallows, unharvested mixes and field corners, among others.

Our EFAs are very unlikely to contain many margins against watercourses, because we don’t seem to have that many of those! Whatever happened to simplification?

Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Principal farm enterprises are combinable and root crops, including sugar beet. In addition the estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship.

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