Farmer Focus: Harvest challenge with busier countryside

The first half of 2020 has certainly been a corona-coaster. For farmers, the emerging concern has been primarily around spring moisture deficit levels once again. Our own crops have held on remarkably well although yields are undoubtedly compromised.

I wonder if regular manure applications within our mixed farming system have helped soil profiles to retain more winter rainfall. Many cereal crops are ridiculously short; straw will probably be in short supply and worth baling up.

I will miss the chances this year to visit Cereals, Groundswell and local crop trials; I have taken such pre-harvest jollies for granted in the past.

See also: Is bruchid beetle making spring beans less attractive?

The lockdown will make harvesting logistics more difficult. With limited recreational alternatives, the British public have understandably used the British countryside more than ever before for walking, cycling or simply driving about.

Rural roads are unusually busy, footpaths are well trodden and beauty spots crammed. We haven’t personally had problems with fly-tipping or open gates, but we have experienced trespass problems by scrambler bike gangs.

Moving combines and harvested grain around this summer is going to be especially challenging and will need careful planning. We will have a pre-harvest meeting with the farm team to go through the health and safety implications of this busier rural backdrop.   

Trade deal talks lurch forwards, with the fate of British agriculture in the hands of negotiators and their political masters. Soon the crunch will come and we will have decided whether to pitch with EU or US standards and forfeit market access to the opposing side.

At a time when all sectors of the economy are in a tough place, agriculture’s voice risks being drowned out by all the noise. Politicians need to understand that the nation’s health, the environment and farming are all inexorably linked and they have one chance to get this right for everybody’s overall benefit.

I try to keep reading the odd book to avoid being totally distracted by social media. I have just finished the regenerative agriculture bible Dirt to Soil by Gabe Brown. Every farmer can take something constructive from this book to apply on farm. Is this a template for a more resilient farming future or an idealistic pipedream?


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