Penalty of compulsory set-aside creeps closer, says Will Howe

I received a letter by post from a major agrochemical supplier last week about the Campaign for the Farmed Environment. It asked me to detail all environment and wildlife enhancing features on my farm, which are not included in my ELS scheme.

For a company such as this to be taking such action would suggest that we are losing the battle and the penalty of obligatory set-aside is creeping closer.

Under my current ELS scheme, I have 4% of my croppable area out of production with various margins. After a bit of head scratching, I could proudly fill in the CFE form with an additional 10ha of fallow. This fallow may please the self-appointed environmental experts, but that was not the main driver in making the decision. One field has been re-drained over the winter and part of another has been left fallow for blackgrass control.

Quite how Bob Geldof will react when he is told that up to 10% of British agricultural land is out of production, I don’t know. It strikes me as mad that world governments are happy to arm various factions in Africa, but would rather feed a corn bunting.

The farm has come through the winter relatively well. There has been a small amount of winter kill in the beans, which has thinned the plant population quite nicely. The dry weather is allowing the fertiliser to be applied to the oilseed rape and wheats.

The main headache is when to apply Atlantis (mesosulfuron + iodosulfuron), as this year it needs to work better than last year. Bayer’s latest recommendation is to time the application according to plant size. But I just feel a little uneasy applying a vital and expensive product when we are still at risk from frosts. But they are experts, so they must know best.



farmer focus arable:willhowe

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