Farmer Focus: Runner-up at the Silver Lapwing Awards

All inputs have been applied and the stage is set for another harvest.

A return to wetter weather came not a moment too soon and has allayed fears of a repeat summer drought.

Grass silage stocks are being replenished and forage maize crops are growing away nicely too.

See also: Wheat fungicide set for 2020 launch offers yield lift

This season has brought a reminder that fungicide and growth regulator spray programmes are designed to be principally protective in nature; the sudden flip in the weather to more unsettled conditions showed how diseases and lodging pressures can change quickly.

It is tempting to pull back on inputs when the sun is shining, but you can never tell what is around the corner.

A robust T3 fungicide was applied to all wheats this year and should help ensure high grain quality and yield.

Conservation nod

I recently made the journey to Cumbria to attend the Farming Wildlife Advisory Group’s annual Silver Lapwing award ceremony (on its 50th anniversary year).

We were honoured to be chosen as runner-up out of the seven regional finalists, which was a culmination of many years’ efforts by our farming business to improve our conservation environment.

Absolutely integral to this achievement has been our involvement in the Pewsey Downs farmers’ cluster, for which we have an excellent facilitator driving a co-ordinated agenda.

Recent projects have included adapting Second World War pillboxes to become bat sanctuaries and building new farm ponds.

Looking to the future, priorities include reintroducing disease-resistant elm trees back to the landscape and enhancing low-input meadows.

I only hope that future governments make good on their promises to properly manage and fund the new Environmental Land Management schemes, but media reports about the pilots are not encouraging.

Conservation projects are a priority for most farms with long-term vision, but without taxpayer input, they provide little income to contribute to farm rents.

A visit to the excellent Bayer Oxfordshire trial site was enlightening and showed how agronomic flexibility is being reduced by the withdrawal of key actives.

When a premier agrochemical company is forced to start selling biostimulant seed dressings, you know the regulatory system is broken at a time when we need to improve productivity more than ever.