Farmer Focus: Storms, powercuts and candle novelty wears thin

The past couple of days have felt a bit more like February, with some snow showers and colder temperatures, in contrast to the past six weeks, which have been unusually mild and dry. 

We have ploughed land in ideal conditions and at the end of January, conditions would have been perfect for drilling had we been a few hundred miles further south. 

About the author

Robert Drysdale
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Monymusk Estate, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across 1600ha on 4 contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The farm also has 130 beef cows running on land that is less suitable for crop production with the majority of calves being finished on the farm.
Read more articles by Robert Drysdale

Yet another storm is forecast for the end of the week, with the prospect of further trees coming down and causing power cuts. 

Having had five days without power in November and four in January, the novelty of candles and coal fires is wearing thin.

See also: Strip-tilling sugar beet – two growers’ experiences

A major issue that we faced without power was the lack of communication.  Not in the sense that the power companies were not putting information out, but that without power we have no phone or broadband now that we have a digital line.

BT’s backup suggestion is to use a mobile, but with no power to the masts we had no mobile coverage either, so unless you go for a drive somewhere to find a signal, you don’t know what is going on. 

More seriously, at a time when there are increased risks due to people using candles, cooking on fires and operating chainsaws, there is no ability to call for help in an emergency.

I feel that an automatic backup for mobile masts in rural areas is urgently needed.

With the good weather, winter crops, particularly cereals, are looking well and have continued to grow.

As the time to apply fertiliser approaches, I will be checking OSR crops for larvae following the issues that we had last year.

There is no point putting high rates of expensive fertiliser on crops that may look good but are going to be restricted by larval damage.

Earlier this month I had our first face-to-face agronomy group meeting for two years.

It was great to get back to this format, as you get so much more from it than from sitting in front of a computer screen, where it is too easy to be distracted by other things going on.

Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

View course

Using contractors saves you time and money. Now you can book, track and pay all in one place. Register for early access today.

Find out more