Andrew Kerr farms 344ha
(850 acres) in partnership
with his parents and brother
at Wyldingtree Farm, North
Weald, Essex. Cropping is
potatoes, including some
on rented ground, plus
cereals, herbage seed and
HAVING recovered from the surprise of being asked to write a regular column for the Farmer Focus series, here is my first attempt to produce a frank account of our activities at Wyldingtree.
Do not believe any rubbish you may have read elsewhere about Essex being the driest part of the country – we have received our fair share of rain recently, averaging 50mm (2in) a week since mid-September.
Consequently the heavy clay soils around here have acquired the consistency of chocolate blancmange, making cereal drilling and potato harvesting virtually impossible. Despite much fettling of mach-inery on wet days and long hours on the occasional dry ones, we still have nearly half our wheat to drill and a quarter of our spuds to lift.
I have watched with interest the progress made locally by farms with shared machinery, and although current conditions must test patience somewhat I believe most of us will have to spread costs in similar ways if long-term survival is the aim. Surely if ever there was a climate designed to bankrupt UK Farming Plc then this is it!
On farm, the Escort and Pronto oilseed rape and Greengold herbage seed are looking reasonably well, despite being established in the presence of poorly chopped straw (another problem to sort at the Smithfield Show!). The use of slug pellets has been minimised by using a heavy flat roll after drilling.
Falcon (propaquizafop) or Fusilade (fluazifop-p-butyl) has been sprayed on all the rape, depending on weed spectrum present, whilst the Pronto also merited phoma control with Punch C (flusilazole + mbc).
By the time you read this we will all have a better idea of the governments reaction to the fuel protest deadline. Personally, I hope Blair and Co receive a lesson where it hurts. But then reasoned debate might just allow us to complete our delayed autumn schedule without jeopardising potentially fragile public support and fuel supplies all at once.
Perhaps the time is right for us to produce our own biodiesel? *
New Farmer Focus Andrew Kerr writer is caught between backing fuel protests and getting autumn work finished.