Farmer Focus: The farm is heading for a financial disaster

With the wheat price on its knees and the farm constantly battered by rain, it’s looking like a financial disaster.

We do not have a single field of wheat that’s perfect from hedge to hedge. Virtually every field will have an area written off – if not a complete write-off.

Another 35mm of rain this week has pretty much closed the door on any more winter wheat drilling.

See also: Crop nutrition focus saves farmer over £43,000 on costs

About the author

Keith Challen
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.
Read more articles by Keith Challen

The next few weeks are going to be critical in determining just what areas to save and which to write off.

Fields deemed not good enough a few weeks ago may well have to be kept now, which will put huge pressure on input decisions.

We have been busy building a 6m low disturbance subsoiler these last few weeks. Although I’ve been tinkering in the workshop for 30 odd years, it still takes me a couple of attempts to get hydraulic ram geometry right.

I contemplated buying one of those fancy computerised CAD systems once, but then I thought who’d show me how to use it?

With all last winter’s rain, I think this machine could be the backbone of the coming season’s cultivation strategy so I’d better get it right. That’s assuming it ever stops raining.

The last week of January was a bit drier overhead, so we were able to get on with some more hedge laying. We have 1,000m to do this winter and next.

The hedges in question are well overdue and rather than being burnt, the brash will be chipped and used for weed control within the elderflower plantations.

There is something satisfying about recycling a product that would have been wasted.

As well as hedge laying, we’ve tried to keep the digger going on ditch maintenance.

It seems fairly relentless (and at times somewhat pointless) when the water finally arrives at an Environment Agency-managed watercourse to find the banks have collapsed, and capacity is restricted due to a complete lack of maintenance.

I know it’s a common theme and much repeated, but this country’s flood management is woefully inept.

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