Brian Hammond is farm
manager for Carnreagh
Farms at the 182ha (450-
acre) Ballyalloly Farm,
Comber, Co Down, where he
grows 50ha (125 acres) of
potatoes as well as cereals
and oilseed rape
As I write this, it has just stopped raining after almost three consecutive days. Land is now as wet as any day during the winter.
Prospects are not any better either, with more rain forecast and turning colder with snow showers and night frosts. If ever there was a year when we needed the weather to work for us and not against us, then this is it.
Apart from a little spraying and fertiliser sowing, no fieldwork has been carried out for a fortnight. Field preparations for potato planting are falling behind and we have not ploughed any land yet.
However, this will probably work to our advantage as we have always found freshly ploughed land dries out much faster. It will take at least two weeks of good drying to get land into good enough condition to allow a start to planting. Luckily, most of our seed is still in cold storage.
On the cereal front we have been keeping up quite well, thanks to our two Lightfoots. But we now urgently need to apply the second nitrogen to barley and the first to the later sown wheat.
Spraying is also behind. Most urgent is chlormequat on the wheat after last years potato crop. With a blast of wintry weather forecast, care must be taken not to damage the crop, or worse still, miss out and risk lodging later on.
There seems to be a lot of talk lately about Farm Quality Assurance for cereals. We have been FQA for two years now and it is disappointing to find nobody is interested whether the grain is FQA or not, never mind paying a premium for it.
I am not suggesting FQA is a waste of time. Quite the opposite. It should be made compulsory as we do not want any BSE style disaster to happen to the cereal sector. *
Farm Quality Assured grain, but does anybody care? Northern Ireland farmer Brian Hammonds cereals have been assured for two years now, but he is yet to see a premium or any appreciation from buyers.