Farmer Focus : Matthew Dale 11/02/05

I AM SAT here feeling a bit like a fart in a colander, one that doesn’t know which hole to go through.

There is so much to get my head round – Entry Level Scheme, Higher Level, SFP and cross-compliance, a new raft of set-aside rules, how to grow spuds without compromising any payments and how to stay in business with wheat at £64/t.

Not content with foisting this new regulation upon us, DEFRA persists in sticking to its roll-out timetable. But it seems consistently slack in getting firm information out beforehand so we can plan.

The new set-aside rules, complete with changes that radically alter the scheme, hit my doormat three days after the Jan 15 start date. The ELS seems to be heading the same way.

With so much red tape about, it has been good to make the most of the dry spell doing fieldwork.

Ploughing provides a feelgood factor, but represents only a temporary escape, and smacks of ostrich behaviour.

That said, I am pleased that most of our spring bean ground has been knocked over and we have caught up with some spraying.

The bonus is that our new John Deere has a heated seat, which brings a rosy glow to certain parts of the body. This creates a need for plenty of talc to prevent chafing. Perhaps loose fitting, well ventilated shorts might be a good idea.

Our Colossus winter barley and later sown second wheat has had a herbicide plus Permasect (cypermethrin) to cover late aphid attack.

I am no great fan of blanket spraying insecticide, but the wheat was really hammered by aphid-borne virus last year, and, with the mild weather, we cannot afford to take the chance.