Set-aside threat unfair, says Richard Cobbald

The clocks have gone forward, spring is well on its way and everyone is talking of the feel-good factor of warmer, longer days. But farmers of course are never happy; I’d like a bit of rain now to benefit crops.

All second nitrogen applications have been applied early in readiness as we have been caught out for the past two springs by long, dry spells. All the Atlantis (iodosulfuron + mesosulfuron) has been applied and T0 sprays have gone on with some growth regulator.

First wheat and oilseed rape crops look well here, but the second wheats, drilled later after the autumn rain, really need some moisture to help them catch up. Continually walking these fields doesn’t seem to be helping them either and it’s certainly causing an increase in my cider intake – purely medicinal to help me sleep.

The spring barley has all drilled well and has emerged, but we will not really know the damage of the late beet harvest until later in the year. Looking ahead, the new season’s sugar beet has been drilled into some of the best seed-beds I have ever produced. Ironically, it has benefited hugely from all the frosty weather over the winter. The seed is well chitted and I would hope to see plants visible soon.

The threat of compulsory set-aside has reared its ugly head again, this time through DEFRA minister Jim Paice. It seems like the powers that be, by that I mean our lobbying groups, are not targeting the right people. Surely they could easily acquire a list from Natural England of those farmers who are not in ELS and concentrate their efforts in their direction. Many of us are already doing our bit, so why should we do more when some don’t care? Let them have the set-aside instead.

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