Farmer Focus: Snow delays plough progress for Neil Thomson

If I looked a bit off colour at LAMMA show, I apologise. We’d beaten the queues by staying in Lincoln the previous evening. One of my companions had been a student there and took us to his old haunts, including a nightclub, where I was probably the oldest by about 20 years.

The noise (music?) was so loud I could feel it rippling through my organs, and I felt like I’d had 10 rounds with Joe Calzage. But what a great show, the trip was well worth it.

With snow all around, we can’t get up to date with ploughing. But it gives me time to find someone to work for us this summer, accrue vital NRoSO points and push paper – our soil maps, for example – around the desk.

These show encouraging results on fields where we’ve been applying nutrients precisely for five years, and reinforce my faith in the technique particularly for winter cropping.

But I’ve concluded that variable P and K applications are impractical in spring barley as we went through the crop four times last year, a headache at an already busy time.

I was among a group of farmers invited to view impressive new facilities at Simpsons maltings in Berwick recently. The investment of many millions will mean they will soon be able to malt nearly 250,000t a year there.

That produces a helluva lot of whisky and beer, so I hope that there are still plenty of people out there who enjoy our national tipple.

As a farmer, I am encouraged to continue growing barley for this market, despite taking the brunt of the risk. If it doesn’t make the grade the penalties are frightening. I don’t want a repeat of harvest 2008, which still has painful memories – or was that the nightclub?

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