Farmer Focus: If you want conservation done properly ask a farmer

Following recent rainfall our crops have all switched to “fast forward” and, helped by the warm temperatures, have raced through growth stages. We are now back on track for a respectable harvest.

Currently my favourite wheat crops are the variety Graham, although the Montana also looks promising.

I recently organised a farming study tour to Kent, the Garden of England.

This county has so much to offer and we saw unfamiliar crops such as hops, asparagus and lavender being grown successfully, and met farmers thinking “outside the box” to stay one step ahead.

See also: Gove’s new farm pollution controls: The details and reaction

Everyone returned home with fresh ideas. Study tours are a great way to enjoy a short break with the added benefit of being a legitimate tax-allowable expense! In these times of impending change there is a great deal to learn from each other.

Encouraging wildlife

My personal highlight of the trip was a visit to the Elmley National Nature Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey.

This family-run farm thinks of wildlife as being their “crop”. Using a combination of advanced habitat enhancement, robust predator control and balanced livestock grazing they have created a stunning environmental landscape.

The reserve was teeming with lapwing and redshank fledglings, among other rare species. Elmley told a really inspirational story and the inference was obvious: if you want a conservation project run properly, ask a farmer to do it!

Soft targets

The Defra Clean Air strategy 2018 is yet another consultation clearly picking on agriculture as a soft target.

Despite ammonia emissions having fallen 13% between 1980 and 2015, farming is faced with draconian proposals such as manure covers and decreased fertiliser limits, with special measures inflicted on dairy herds of more than 150 cows.

Other industry and transport sectors are largely overlooked or given much longer timescales to work with. Farming bodies need to come together in unity to challenge these unreasonable ideas.

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