Farmer Focus: Problems with pigeons in crops

Just when I was wondering what I could write about this time, as it is still far too wet for field work, along comes the pigeon story. Apparently, Natural England wants us to shoo the pigeons off our rape crops instead of shooting them.

We did try quite hard to politely ask our feathered friends to vacate our fields last year, but there seemed to be a communication problem. We used all-manner of scary things including gas guns, whirling aluminium men and Paddy the collie, but all to no avail.

So in the end, lead poisoning was the only way to dissuade them from eating our rape. Until the beginning of this month they have been notable by their absence, but the acorns are now past their best so look out here they come.

As I write this in early March, the floodwaters are starting to recede, but it will be several months before all the water has gone.

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It is still too early to assess how much crop we have lost and if the grass, which has been under water since December will survive.

The barley and rape crops submerged since then are long dead but there is maybe a faint hope for the areas that were flooded for a shorter period of time.

Even on the higher ground, away from the River Thames, fertiliser spreading, spraying and spring drilling are still awaiting some dry weather.

We have rape that is at stem extension and we made an aborted attempt to spread some fertiliser on it, but it was still too wet to travel.

This is going to be problematic if it gets too tall, as we use a trailed spreader.

The men have cut logs, cleaned up the yard and various buildings and fabricated new bits of kit, but still the rain comes. Of course it won’t be long before the drought sets in, but that’s what makes it all so interesting.

Congratulations to the NFU team voted in to take over from Peter Kendall. I hope they are able to build on his excellent work in raising the profile of farming.

Simon Beddows manages 1,000ha of arable land at Dunsden Green, south Oxfordshire. Cropping is cereals, oilseed rape, beans and forage maize.