Farmer Focus: Major ditching work tackles in-field lakes

The topic of conversation in February is usually fairly predictable – how wet it has been this winter and will it ever dry up?

This winter seems to have been wetter than normal, but maybe that just because I’m looking at the farm over winter for the first time.

The standing water, rain, snow and wind over the past few months have given the impression I should be looking at rice varieties and amphibious vehicles, but I’ll be glad of the heavy clay when there is a hosepipe ban in June.

See also: How to improve soil and yields with effective field drainage

Undertaking some ditching work this winter was always planned, but once we got started we got carried away somewhat and have doubled the amount being done this year.

Farm facelift

The task hasn’t been a simple one, with hedgerows being very overgrown and covering the entirety of the ditches in most places.

It’s amazing how quickly you can change the look of a farm with a couple of 360 excavators and a hedgecutter.

Previously neglected ditches and overgrown hedges are now part of an ongoing management plan and water is pouring out of field drains previously buried under 300mm of silt, and importantly moving down stream correctly. Infield “lakes” are already disappearing.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the spring workload, and getting the ball rolling on sorting out an environmental stewardship application to go alongside the improvements to ditches and hedgerows.

The farm is in an area highlighted for work with turtle doves, which are the UK’s fastest declining bird species.

Their numbers declined by 95% between 1967 and 2012, so hopefully through working with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment and RSPB I can implement some useful options on farm, which will have positive results in future.

It is NFU conference time again very soon which always proves to be an interesting and valuable couple of days away from the farm developing a better understanding of the issues and challenges the industry faces, and how the NFU is working on addressing them.

With a change of leadership at the top and the next few years potentially bringing some big changes and opportunities to the industry it is great to have a eight people standing for election to the three roles.

Each would bring something positive to the table and help form a strong team, so good luck to all of the candidates on the 21 February.

Matt Redman operates a farming and agricultural contracting business specialising in crop spraying, Avadex application and direct drilling in Bedfordshire. He also grows cereals on a small area of tenancy land and was Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year in 2014.

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