Farmer Focus: European tour reveals endless fields of slop

As the only way not to work is to actually leave the farm, we drove to Bruges for a few days before Christmas.

From our corner of the country we can get to Belgium quicker that we can get to Norfolk or Northampton, and it seems much easier to get out of Kent via the Channel tunnel than it does via the M25, for now at least.

I had absolutely no interest in the Christmas markets but the drive through northern France was fascinating, in a horror film type of way.

See also: How a YEN winner grew top-yielding wheat and OSR crops

Unfortunately for the farmers of this region it has obviously rained there as much or more than here, and the heavily cultivated soil has simply turned to slop in many fields.

Escape bid

There were many small in-field lakes interspersed with a patchwork of green drill lines indicating the establishment attempts.

Even worse were several fields where spraying had been desperately risked, leaving cavernous ruts along the tramlines.

Here and there they got gradually deeper before the tractor tracks then veered off across the field in an escape bid.

Some of these had been unsuccessful, leading to the convergence of other tracks from different directions and an eventual trail of devastation across to the field edge.

Back home on slightly drier land, the sheep grazing cover crops failed to get out or die on Christmas day this time, which was a nice surprise present.

Last year we cut some covers before grazing and had them analysed to estimate the amount of nutrients that might be available to the following spring crop.

However, I do like to graze all of ours so perhaps I should instead be collecting droppings for testing.

It would be easier if someone could do some trials on the subject, although I’d give priority to work on barley yellow dwarf virus.

Can bunging in an insecticide with the first pass in the spring, because it only costs £2 a hectare, really be right?