Farming column – January 2017

Ploughing at Castle Farm Jan 2017

The year 2016 has been one of many surprises, especially the referendum vote to leave the EU.  We are now in a period of great uncertainty, not really knowing how it will work out. Will it be hard Brexit i.e. cutting our links with the EU completely or soft Brexit, trying to maintain a good relationship with Europe especially regarding trade.  Who knows, the politicians seem a bit confused about it so we have no chance of knowing where it will end up.  One positive outcome so far is that the pound has weakened against the euro and the dollar which has pushed up the price of imports and the price of our grain and oilseed rape has risen quite a lot as a result of it.  Wheat is now worth £135 per tonne, up from around £105 and oilseed rape as much as £350 per tonne.

Another bit of good news this year is that the Rural Payments Agency, which is responsible for paying farmers support payments under the EU Basic Payments Scheme, has been much more efficient in getting payments out and most farmers will have received their payment on time in December.

The autumn and winter weather has been kind so far and crops look very well with no frost damage and very little flooding.  At the time of writing severe wintry weather is forecast, let’s hope it isn’t too bad.

One of the main jobs on the farm over the winter months is ploughing the land in preparation for spring sowing.  Ploughing is the most effective way of turning over the soil, getting rid of weeds and helping create a good seedbed especially if it gets a good frost on it to break the soil down.  It is however quite a slow and expensive operation and some farmers prefer a mini-till system using soil looseners and direct drills, but this can lead to a build-up of grass weeds in particular.

Let us hope 2017 is a good year for farming and for the whole country.

Stephen Prest

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