Kevin Littleboy

12 December 1997

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale of York

supports potatoes, winter

wheat, rape and barley, plus

grass for sheep

THANKFULLY the prolonged wet weather has been replaced by frosts and what the weathermen describe as lukewarm sun. The land is still too wet to travel on, so the IPU and DFF spraying still hasnt been completed on the wheats.

The amusing twist to buying the chemicals this year is that I didnt purchase the IPU earlier on when it was being marketed at around £14, but now that I have bought it cheaper, I cant get it onto the land. If I have to spray a more expensive chemical (wild oats, etc) next year – who has won? I hope Father Christmas will turn my well stocked chemical store into profitability!

On the patches of heavy land clay outcrops, the early drilled wheat has finally chitted and is slowly emerging. I was unable to re-roll these areas, due to the rain, so slug damage is considerable albeit that slug pellets have been applied twice; and I have been unable to redrill any of these areas. The Buster wheat drilled for seed production, after potatoes, is well through and is the best stand of all the wheats.

The Agricultural and Food Industry has pontificated for ages on the so called proof of scientific evidence, to allay the fears of our customers. Isnt it a wonder why we become cynics (I more than others, Ill say before someone says it), when it is announced that nitrates in food and water are good for you.

When I started farming some 10 years ago, I became embroiled in trying to argue against the arbitrary figure of 50ppm of nitrate in water set by the then EEC, after evidence from the World Health Organisation.

It is now recognised that nitrates infood and water are good for you – eat a high nitrate lettuce (if you can find an imported one!) before your meal – this will generate nitrous oxide in your stomach which acts as a bactericide, which will help kill off e.coli. Question: Will it take another decade or two, to prove that rump steak is safe to eat?

Poor weather means field work has taken a back seat recently. Herbicide programmes will now need a careful rethink, says Kevin Littleboy.

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