Farmer Focus: Martin Lawrenson February column

There’s an old saying, “February fill dyke, black or white”, meaning that we usually get plenty of rain or snow during this month. Well, it will have to go some to produce as much rain as January.

I can’t remember having two dry days together from New Year until the end of the month, and we got a month’s rain in one week.

Crops that I thought looked quite good last month now seem very sad. Large areas have been flooded leaving us with a fair bit of patching up to do when the land dries out.

I read in Farmers Weekly that the government is giving the Environment Agency £1.8bn to fund flood defence work and coastal defences.

I hope some of that money finds its way to our local agency, as its ditch maintenance over the past few years has left a lot to be desired.

The work has been badly timed and cut back so much that it is starting to have a real effect on the profitability of some of our land.

The drainage ditches now seem to be regarded by the EA as some sort of nature reserve, and so it is reluctant to cut the banks properly and clean out the bottoms.

In my view the purpose of the ditches is to let water drain away to the sea not to provide wildlife habitat. But I believe that good ditch maintenance actually helps wildlife. I know that if I was a water vole I wouldn’t want my home in the bank flooded every time it rains.

Next month, I hope I will be writing about starting field work and not ranting about other matters. It will be good to get back to doing what I like best – working the land to produce quality crops.

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