Will Howe decides to phone a friend

Every farmer needs a friend to talk to from time to time, about the nuances of agriculture, our desperate need for a pint and our mutual loathing of populist politicians.

I am fortunate that I have Jethro. He is always there and ready to take a call, yet the best bit is he has always had a worse day than me. No matter what disaster has struck here, he has had worse. Yesterday I made the fatal mistake of asking how everything was going, on the premise that I could then spout forth about the wet seedbeds and Ed Miliband’s address to the nation.

I was quickly informed in a northern groan that this was the worst day of his farming career – tedding 12ha of straw in order for it to dry out enough to disc in does sound soul-destroying.

I had promised myself not to write about the weather, but currently it is the only topic of conversation. The land with oilseed rape planted is still too dry, and yet the winter wheat seedbeds are too wet. Late drilling for blackgrass control does have agronomic merit, but on heavy clay it is not ideal; that and we are not even late yet. In future, I think all late-drilled crops will have to have a green cover pre-drilling, whether it be a sown crop or OSR volunteers.

A dubious positive of the season has been increased communication with the grain trade. Samples are taken, results are published and then phone calls are made to discuss quality issues. The next step is to load the lorry, and then wait for the resultant deduction phone call.

It wouldn’t irritate me as much if the playing field were level. But chasing some seed wheat deliveries only to be told the delay of three weeks was due to the “difficult season” was faintly comical. I feel the need for another phone call.

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