Flindt on Friday: Fertiliser foresight from formal phone call

I’m not saying that my hot tips are on a bit of a roll, but if the good farmers of Wisbech NFU took my advice at their dinner (Ukraine to win Eurovision, UK to do very well indeed) they will be even cheerier than they were once (or was it “because”?) I’d finished my speech and sat down.

(If you are somehow unaware of the Eurovision result – and I find it hard to believe that some folk don’t watch it – that was the final 1-2.)

See also: Digestate offers viable alternative to inorganic fertilisers

So I’ve got another one for you: don’t buy your fertiliser just yet. This is one heck of a hot tip, based – as it is – on a couple of phone calls, and coming just as the Pre-harvest Fertiliser Panic is in full swing.

(The PFP seems to have taken over from the Orange Wheat Blossom Midge Panic, which has finally died a death after 30 years. It’s almost as if we arable farmers need something to get in a tizzy about as harvest approaches and we start shutting gates.)

Liquidity problem

What were these phone calls? The first was from my liquid fertiliser company, pointing out that I hadn’t used all of my original order; would I be wanting it now?

One of the many joys of liquid fert is that it gets delivered lorry-by-lorry through the season, so you’re not – in theory – tied to your autumn back-of-an-envelope sums.

And my original order had indeed been trimmed – not because I was cutting rate per hectare, but because some winter crops were replaced with spring ones. I explained the situation, and said no thanks.

“Are you quite sure, Mr Flindt?” was the reply. This startled me; not the mild impertinence, but the new outbreak of formality.

This year they’ve started asking for my Christian name every time I’ve rung them for another lorry-load, and I’ve had to point out that my Christian name is for friends and family (and Farmers Weekly readers, of course, but I didn’t say that).

One order-taker had said, “Well, I’ll have to get to know you better!” which was officially the creepiest thing I’ve heard in 38 years of farming.

This caller was polite but insistent. “Perhaps you should take this last load and leave it in your tank ready for next year.”

I declined the offer, again, on the perfectly valid grounds that I’m uneasy with having a remote and full tank of fert on the farm for six months – including the hare-coursing season.

The rep seemed unconvinced, but eventually accepted that I was not taking any more.

Why was he so keen to shift the final bit of my order – the last few “cubes” at scrotum-shrinking prices? And revert to a formal “Mr Flindt”?

Could it be that next year’s prices might not scale the same dizzy heights?

Russian whispers

The second phone call was from Agronomist Tod, and he’d heard a rumour. He’d heard it from a friend who’d heard it from a friend. “Tod,” I interrupted, “you’re getting confused; that’s REO Speedwagon.”

No, really (he went on). The clever money is on a certain Russian to keel over (for one reason or another) within months, vast quantities of Western aid to pour into Ukraine and a more pro-globalist Kremlin to emerge – and supplies of grain and gas to return to normal.

Sell grain forward now, but hold back on fertiliser. Ker-ching.

“You might recoup the 10 grand you lost by not accepting that final lorry load of ultra-cheap fertiliser this time last year,” said Tod, somewhat unkindly.

Yes, well, we’ll keep quiet about that too. So much for Charlie’s hot tips.