French holiday sparks mixed emotions for Martin Lawrenson

In the middle of last month we managed a few days away with the kids in the Vendée region of France.

We arrived at the campsite to see a brand new New Holland combine working its way across a lovely field of wheat next door. As I watched, drinking a cold beer, I didn’t know whether to be jealous of the smooth operation or relieved that it wasn’t me rushing around carting grain and shifting straw.

Driving through France we saw some fantastic looking fields, and yields seemed excellent. Also noticeable was the amount of new machinery and farm buildings. Clearly, French farmers are feeling the benefits of higher prices and are investing the profits.

Back home, potato lifting is under way, with our Accord being first up. We started a week earlier than last year and were happy with the sample.

The initial yield was about 30t/ha, but output is now nearer 42t/ha. The only disappointment is that prices are dropping, although not too drastically. Hopefully, the reported lower yields around the country will mean they will steady soon.

Harvest has also begun with our winter barley, but the first field of Pearl was very disappointing at about 5t/ha. Although there were some very thin patches where it flooded in winter, we had hoped the rest would make up for it.

While we don’t expect huge yields on our wet, peaty land, I am left scratching my head as to what more we can do to improve our winter crops’ performance.

The long, wet winters must be partly to blame, and we can’t increase fertiliser inputs too much without risking lodging and exceeding RB209 recommendations. Maybe a switch to all spring-sown crops is the answer – or a move to France.

See more