Open Farm Sunday massive success for Philip Bradshaw

I have always liked the Open Farm Sunday initiative and we had a fantastic day helping out at the open weekend at Park Farm, Thorney. Host farmer Michael Sly, assisted by neighbouring farmers, allied trades, the local community, the RSPB, the NFU, the Peterborough Farm Machinery Preservation Society and others, had a record year.

It was a pleasure to see more than 4,000 people coming onto a working farm all keen to learn about agriculture and the countryside. I must congratulate Michael and all those involved for making the weekend the huge success that it was, and well done also to everyone across the country involved with similar events.

Our sugar beet is improving, and certainly growing better now it is warmer. Spray application windows have been few and far between, but the broad-leaved weed herbicide programme is now complete and mostly successful, and regular appropriate nutrient applications have nurtured the crop nicely. It is ironic that back in April, just as I congratulated myself on keeping the local pigeons off the oilseeds this year, they decided to eat half of our sugar beet crop instead.

It has been challenging keeping on top of disease control strategies for wheat in a wet year following some drier summers. Thankfully, we seem to have escaped the worse of the septoria problems that others have suffered from to date.

A combination of appropriate earlier doses of modern fungicides applied on time must have helped, but geography and good luck played an important part. Recent T3 fungicides were kept robust to keep both the ear and flag leaf clean. The spend on fungicides this year has been much higher than last, reflecting the disease pressure on the crop, and the risk of getting it wrong.

Philip Bradshaw grows cereals, sugar beet and potatoes on 300ha of fenland and other soil types at Flegcroft Farm, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire.

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