Farmer Focus: Basis course hard but helps with farm decisions

I recently started Basis training which runs over 17 days in a four-month period. This will give me a better understanding of our agrochemical inputs decisions and help me to better adopt integrated farm management principles.

So far the course has been interesting but far more challenging than expected; learning chemical active names is a bit like learning a new language.

Key themes have included durable crop rotations, ploughing as part of residual herbicide management and anti-resistance strategies.

See also: Advice for farmers on letting land for solar projects

Basis qualifications are one of the more important standards underpinning domestic production; many countries such as New Zealand have no equivalent programme.

We have just finished installing a modest ground-mounted solar PV array at our farm dairy. Most of the generated power will be used on-site and not exported which gives the project an attractive payback period.

Using ballasted bucket-type mounts we were also able to do much of the installation work ourselves.

The European Commission’s decision to drop tariffs on Chinese panel imports has lowered equipment costs significantly.

Combined with the UK government’s commitment to end feed-in tariffs next March, it meant this was the right time to get on with this project.

Too little impact

The Agriculture Bill gives much to think about. I believe the south-west region, with its diverse landscapes, will be well positioned to benefit from proposed environmental land management schemes but I remain concerned these options might be funded using income-foregone calculations.

Such schemes must be profitable to encourage uptake. The noble goals of building consumer trust, promoting farmers as environmental champions and delivering sustainable farming are worthy of proper funding.

Even so; my planting of a few trees here and some wildflowers there is a ‘drop in the ocean’ in global environmental terms.

The newly elected Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has begun a programme to remove vast areas of virgin rainforest with deforestation already at its highest rate in a decade; how can new UK schemes possibly compete with such mass destruction elsewhere?

Our primary focus should remain in supplying the nation with the ingredients for a healthy, balanced diet and not prioritising globally insignificant greening aspirations. Wishing you all a happy, Brexit-free festive season.