Farmer Focus: Swampy fields turn into desiccated deserts

What an extraordinary change in the weather. In a matter of days, fields switched from being a swampy mess to cold, desiccated deserts. Unable to take up early-applied fertilisers, late-drilled winter cereals have gone backwards.

Pigeons have also continued to be a nuisance by grazing oilseed rape crops. We could really do with a damper, benign spring now. The plus side of this windy, dry spell has been the opportunity to push on with spring drilling.

We have doubled our planned Planet spring barley area, and also planted extra spring beans. Seed-beds vary from good to perfect and have been rolled to trap moisture so, hopefully, these will become 2020’s best-established crop

See also: All you need to know about controlling wireworm in potatoes

The global pandemic is a truly frightening and life- event that puts our previous nationalistic squabbles into perspective. It will probably be the defining event of our lives over the next decade.

Although I cannot get a confirmatory test, I believe I have been through the virus myself, which was not pleasant. And although I am now fully recovered, my father is also struggling with flu-like symptoms. It is an extremely worrying time for the family.

For the wider team, we have appreciated the relative freedom of living in the countryside and are fortunate to be able to continue working on farm in tractors and with livestock. Agriculture is well suited to social distancing, which we do naturally anyway with our everyday tasks.  

When we finally come out the other side of this globalised lockdown, what will be different?

Firstly, the differences between a skilled worker and a key worker are now understood. Ample food supplies will no longer be taken for granted and this creates opportunities for UK agriculture. Farmers should try to better match what we produce directly to the needs of the consumer – what can we sell direct to customers?

Secondly, the vital significance of access to overseas workers to supplement UK pickers of fresh fruit and vegetables is now accepted. These functions simply cannot be automated at present and are seasonal jobs requiring transient workers.

Tragically, however, the biggest effect will be that we will all likely have lost loved ones or friends to this horrible disease before it subsides and make us better appreciate future good times.

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