Farmer Focus: Solar park up and running

Further to my last article I did spray out the companion crop in the osr with Galera. I hear this may have an earliest use date of 1 March 1 next year, which is understandable for stewardship reasons, but could make for a very small application window before buds are visible above the crop.

The story of the past month has actually been one of not spraying: there were no pollen beetles to speak of (are there really ever enough?), light leaf spot never showed and even the “rampaging” yellow rust has not yet hit.

Given the historically low chance of making any money from T0 sprays, I have always been only a sporadic user of this timing. I’m also reluctant to start at too early a calendar date as this can lead to questions of T1 and a halves as growth stages normalise and fungicide gaps get stretched.

In fact I wonder about the wisdom of tackling resistance by simply using more sprays more often; we will now use SDHIs at T1 and they’ll soon be much less effective. We may end up looking to other techniques and the HGCA Recommended List should look at disease resistance as a number one priority if we are to protect future yields. When I stopped spraying insecticides I got progressively fewer insect problems – albeit with seed treatments and flower and grass strips (oh, and not yet applicable to beans).

The consultation regarding a pollinator strategy is great but perhaps it could be simple. Give farmers financial incentives to create the best habitats and decrease insecticide use; carrots work much better than sticks.

The solar park on our land is up and running and if people had problems with this they will be having a shocker over the next 20 years with our village earmarked to double in size. The latest predictions show the UK bucking EU trends and increasing its population significantly, mainly in my south-east region, and everyone will want a house, renewable power and food without any building, sandpits, solar panels, wind turbines, polytunnels or tractors and spraying near them.

Andy Barr farms 630ha on a mixed family farm in Kent, including 430ha mainly of winter wheat, oilseed rape and spring barley. The rest is in an OELS scheme and grazing for 500 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle

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