Farmer Focus: Struggling to get my head around carbon

We managed to sow our final 14ha of wheat on 24 November into reasonable conditions, given the time of year.

Sowing wheat this late isn’t a very common practice in the Scottish Borders, but late-lifted potatoes and a very wet October left us with little choice.

November was relatively dry in comparison, but actual drying days were at a premium.

The mild autumn weather and high soil moisture have led to some very localised slug issues that have required close monitoring, with treatments of ferric phosphate pellets needed on some fields.

See also: Farmer Focus: Mixed farming – no longer the poisoned chalice

About the author

David Fuller
David Fuller manages 3,500ha of medium sandy clays for McGregor Farms based at Coldstream, on both sides of the border. Cropping includes wheat, spring barley, winter barley and oilseed rape, spring beans and vining peas. Potatoes are farmed in collaboration with Greenvale AP.
Read more articles by David Fuller

Fertiliser prices and carbon seem to be the buzzwords at the moment. The fertiliser market is showing very little sign of cooling.

With grain prices being outpaced by recent fertiliser price increases, the challenge is to make better use of our fertilisers.

It is quite remarkable to think that the AHDB has produced extended versions of the “effect of economic changes on nitrogen rates” tables for certain crops in its RB209 publication to encompass these price “spikes” – let’s hope it is just a spike.

Carbon is an area I’m struggling to get my head around. I know we all have to do our bit, but in my view the efficient use of all inputs is key to minimise wastage and ensure a sustainable business model.

Monitoring and measuring are key to making sensible management decisions. I was told many years ago “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

To that end we test soils for key nutrients and variably apply nutrients to our fields only where needed.

We test for organic matter to make sure our actions are increasing levels rather than depleting them.

We use various other technologies to ensure we are accurately treating only the areas of fields that require intervention.

I understand the direction of travel and the need to adopt a more holistic approach, and some of the solutions are sound but, there needs to be flexibility built into this approach.

Direct-drilling and cover crops are not the solution on many farms. Hopefully any new government interventions will not lead to further offshoring to the detriment of British farmers.

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