Flindt on Friday: Points mean dinosaurs like me can go spraying

If I’m going to embark on a longish drive east first thing in the morning, there had better be a damned good reason for it.

Proper farmers are delighted to be behind the wheel long before the sun gets up – but not me; I love my bed too much. And driving down the A272 these days fill me with a sense of melancholy.

The once deserted and carefree road of my youth, perfect for pushing Fiat 127s and Alfasuds to their handling limits, is now nothing more than a ribbon of tarmac solely designed (with its frequent and apparently random speed limit changes) to raise funds for the Police and Crime Commissioner’s new beard trimmer.

See also: Read more of Charlie Flindt’s columns

Anyway, early the other morning, I was trundling east on the A272, not in the best of moods. I half expected to hear traffic reports of a grumpy little thundercloud being spotted on the road from Petersfield to Midhurst.

The “damned good reason” for my journey came in a letter from NRoSO, giving my latest points tally – and it wasn’t good.

Now, when it comes to these CPD thingies, I’m a bit of a dinosaur: I do my job to the best of my ability, with every acre being filed away under “experience”.

Male dinosaurs unite

As a result, I keep missing the shows, and the meetings and the technical discussions that earn points. But these days, points mean prizes (aka the legal ability to operate a crop sprayer), and word came through of a 10-pointer meeting in West Sussex. Fwoaarr. Fuel up the Terracan!

Something told me I wasn’t the only dinosaur in the little village hall, but the organisers were well armed with bacon butties, biscuits and lashings of hot tea and coffee. The way to man’s heart and all that (and the audience was men-only).

Mind you, the first session wasn’t that optimistic: it was basically a review of what’s cheap and works, and is therefore about to be banned, interspersed with reminders of what we can all do that might delay a ban, or just save certain products. Plenty of food for thought there.

Next up was a fine bit of flag-waving for our industry: how our sprayers are getting better maintained, how pollution incidents are falling – how even we dinosaurs are changing our ways.

My favourite part was the final one, when we were told about fascinating advances in technology: some for water filtration, with sedimentation, activated charcoal and ozone being used.

I was going to ask if graphene filters might be on the horizon; after all, there’s talk of them desalinating sea water – but thought I’d check with my chemistry boffin daughter first.

‘What do points mean?’

Then it was the technology of the machines. New auto-switching nozzles, clever booms that work on the same principle as the common-rail diesel (little solenoids that open and close hundreds of times per second, but variably, to alter the application rate but not the pressure or spray quality).

Link them to plant sensors, and you’ve got automated spot-spraying. Won’t make them any cheaper, or rat-proof, but lots of positives.

And as we finished, that was the overriding message – positivity. We are getting the message about responsibility (even us dinosaurs).

Five years hence, new pesticides will be here, and they won’t necessarily come in a can. We should stick to what we do, argue our case politely and forcibly, and the future is not that scary.

I trundled back along the A272 like a little ray of sunshine, so much so that I didn’t notice the speed camera in Bramdean. And what do points mean? New beard trimmers for the PCC.