Farmer Focus: Rain tap shifts from ‘off’ to ‘on’

The rain tap now only has two positions. April it was definitely set at “off” and most of May “on”, which is a lot better for me than “off”.

Everything is now growing like crazy. Plant growth regulator recommendations are being increased before we can get out with the sprayer and I’m glad to see oilseed rape seemingly branching before my very eyes.

So far, the feared disease explosion has not materialised.

Recent demonstration trials I visited, which compared untreated Extase with various new and improved fungicide applications, showed no differences – although the situation may be different in a few weeks.

See also: Crop Watch: Rain transforms crops, but heat is needed now

About the author

Andrew Barr
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Andy Barr farms 700ha in a family partnership in Kent. Combinable crops amount to about 400ha and include milling wheat and malting barley in an increasingly varied rotation. He also grazes 800 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle and the farm uses conservation agriculture methods.
Read more articles by Andrew Barr

One topic of discussion during this visit was the new barley yellow dwarf virus-tolerant cereal varieties, of which I am growing three.

Given that I hear trials inoculated with the virus show the tolerance is very good, I can’t understand why there are still recommendations to spray them with insecticides?

All their other agronomic attributes do not stack up well enough to choose them over other varieties – so if you have to spray anyway, why grow them?

I appreciate the economic need for breeders to make a return on their investment to ensure we continue to get better varieties, the BIPO (Breeders Intellectual Property Office) royalties system just adds hassle and complicates the cost of seed picture.

However, any future genetics that allow us to keep output up while lessening any detrimental impact on the wider environment are very welcome to me.

I have recently listened to, rather than seen, given the current situation.

There has been quite a bit of talk about lower-input crop production systems, which are mostly very good for the environment but come at a cost of reduced output.

In fact, in some cases much lower output, and with an inherently higher price to consumers.

So, playing devil’s advocate for a moment, if these systems are ecologically sustainable, but can’t produce enough fairly priced food to feed mankind then, overall, are they actually unsustainable?

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