Farmer Focus: Irrigators are out for the carrots and onions

I don’t know what you do on 1 April? I usually associate it with a day of fun, the attempt to try and get one over your mates and certainly an opportunity not to be missed.

So, you can imagine my disbelief when I took the phone call informing me that we had been selected for a Red Tractor spot inspection on the first day of April.

After further investigation it wasn’t a prank, a wind up or even a bit of fun, one of the NSF International top men was heading our way. 

Thanks to a report on the Red Tractor “Tell Us” web reporting service, we had been identified as requiring a visit, allegedly, we had breached the rules. 

See also: Best timing and fungicide to control barley ramularia

So, no joking around with the NSF auditor, a comprehensive inspection of the issues associated with the report, yet again, provided us here at Euston with the opportunity to demonstrate our 365-day compliance with the standards we are proud to be associated with. 

Anyway, that day did not thwart spring progress. Sugar beet drilling was completed by the end of the first week in April into great seed-beds, although the dry conditions did result in them being a challenge to produce.

However, we only planted half the area of previous years as a consequence of last season’s extremely poor yield results. 

By the time that task was completed it was time to get the irrigators out, yes, really, on the light and medium land, it is that dry already.

Early carrots and onions required a drink to keep them going, but thankfully the reservoirs are both full as a result of the substantial winter rain.

With high groundwater levels, our heavier land, particularly that after sugar beet or potatoes, is still taking the opportunity to dry out.

No doubt due to good rotational planning, there is still plenty of time to allow that to happen before it needs to be prepared for planting with forage maize for the anaerobic digester plant.


Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Enterprises include combinable and root crops, plus sugar beet. The estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship.

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