Farmer Focus: Philip Bradshaw March column

It was a relief to get the results for my Advanced Cereals BASIS course and exam that I completed in January. After more than three weeks of doubting my ability I am pleased to report that I passed – presumably just scraping through.

It was an enjoyable course – not just a revision for white straw crops, but taking their agronomic needs to a higher level with a careful eye on environmental considerations.

I can now add this certificate to my modest collection of agronomic qualifications that should make me a better farmer.

I mentioned last month that we are still growing sugar beet despite my concern that the short term economics do not add up. I’m also concerned about our milling wheat area and whether to continue with milling varieties.

More than once I have been told that I am as eccentric as Britney Spears to consider growing quality wheats.

With the premium so small against the likely base value and the risk of not getting the quality, I have cut the acreage for next harvest substantially.

However, as a risk management tool I will sow a modest area again next autumn mainly for my Centaur/Warburtons contract.

We have had lime spread on the light sugar beet land, with rates and guidance coming via GPS.

I then pulled out the wheelings with my trusty 32-year-old Blench pigtail cultivator on its annual day out from the nettles – guided by me holding the tractor steering wheel.

Later wheats have had dead heart Danadim (dimethoate) against wheat bulb fly, and we’ve spread sulphur/ammonium nitrate fertiliser on the oilseed rape, which needs to grow away from pigeons.

Unlike our three dependable Scarey Men – a huge success – our seven bangers of various ages and types are a struggle to keep working.

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