Farmer Focus : Mark Ireland 14/01/05

THE WAY Christmas and New Year fell this year has given our staff a well-deserved extended break and the majority of farm operations only kicked back into life early this week.

Conditions were so conducive to drilling pre-Christmas we couldn’t hold back any longer and made a start drilling Optic spring barley. It’s just peeping through now, which is good although we have had the usual battle with the crow population. With one field adjacent to the house it hasn’t gone down too well that the Christmas crackers have been drowned by the sound of a gas gun.

In an effort to find a replacement for Optic we have increased our area of Cocktail and will drill a field of Westminster. More varieties make storage less efficient but it is important that we try them at an early stage and assess not only their suitability to our farm but also to the maltsters’ requirements.

Following this theme our trial tonnage of Flagon winter barley left the farm recently for malting trials at Coors, Burton-on-Trent. It yielded 7.11t/ha (2.89t/acre) as a second cereal with good quality for malting. If approved for malting I believe this variety will take an increasing share of the Pearl market in the future.

My measuring wheel has been red-hot over the past few weeks to try and get ahead with the Entry Level Scheme. I hope I haven’t wasted my time acting without full knowledge of the scheme but I thought it best to glean the information while time allows.

The implementation delay of the ELS is typical of DEFRA’s operation at present. We have also yet to be informed of the calculations regarding area of set-aside just as we are about to enter the set-aside period, and for those of us in past Nitrate Sensitive Area schemes our eligibility to entitlements is still in the balance – another source of worry.