Matt Redman emphasises the importance of students

Apparently it’s summer, which means arable farms across the country will soon be playing host to the best machinery testers known – students.

However, everyone has to start somewhere, to learn how to – and how not to – do things. Machinery never breaks while it’s in the shed and without students it would probably be stuck in the shed with no driver.

It is increasingly important for employers to provide opportunities for the next generation to learn and gain experience in ever more diverse and technical farm businesses and machinery operation. However, while it is important that employers give the chances, those wanting them cannot just expect a job without proving themselves. Quality of workmanship, safety and willingness to listen to others are needed before being sent off on a £150,000 GPS-guided tractor and cultivator instead of the manual guided grain-store brush.

As part of my degree at Harper Adams, a farm placement year was compulsory. There is no doubt that without the knowledge and experience I gained, as a result of the long hours and hard work I put in, along with the willingness to provide the opportunities and guidance of the Sotterley Estate’s farm manager, Simon Thompson, and other employees, I would not be in the position I am in now.

In the farming industry it is definitely a case of getting out of it what you put in.

Another issue in the industry’s future that is still the hot topic of conversation is blackgrass. With no new chemistry on the horizon, what else can we do to get on top of it? Maybe it’s time someone did some trials with small-scale straw burning; how effective is it? Best practices? And, importantly, what effect would it have on the environment?

After all there are no chemicals involved and fuel use could be reduced if straw doesn’t need chopping.

Matt Redman operates an agricultural contracting business and helps out on the family farm at lower Gravehurst, Bedfordshire. The 210ha farm grows mainly wheat, oilseed rape and beans.

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