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Industrial Storms

The lovely dry, bright weather of the last 10 days has been rather brutally punctuated by Storm Ciara. We were fortunate to escape with only branches down and a 12 hour power cut but the southerly end of the our old barn took a bit of a pounding. We now await the arrival of Storm Dennis on Saturday. Various farms locally have been getting a bit of belated autumn sowing of beans and wheat done. Our agronomist wants us to try and get it growing as soon as possible. With all the wet weather we have had, the rooting system of the wheat will have been damaged by water logging and the soil depleted in nitrogen so modest but regular feeding with fertiliser will be needed.

Much is written about modern agriculture being “industrial” and relying on crops being “drenched” with chemicals and “plastered” in artificial fertiliser. At a recent crop production seminar we were told that current annual tonnage of fertiliser used was a bout 50% of the quantity in use 30 years ago. More efficient application techniques and better understanding of crop physiology has resulted in a considerable saving in the U.K. This is not the case everywhere in the world. When will the term “industrial” not be seen as a derogatory term when applied to farming. Would our detractors really prefer us to ignore modern technology and scientific analysis and return to farming with dog, stick and a straw stuck out of the mouth!!

I have been trying to catch up with the last little bits of hedge cutting which should have been done in November, but which got left because of wet weather and road closures. Much of this is roadside hedges where there is not soft land to damage and various individuals garden hedges which are too scary to do by hand. The window for hedge cutting on the farm finishes at the end of February to allow birds to start nesting. Cutting on non-farmland is of course not regulated. It will be interesting to see whether our government will follow the general pattern of regulation which we have become used to under the Common Agricultural Policy. At present we have been told that area payments will go in 3-4 years and be replaced by payment for “activities for the common good”. So that’s good and clear isn’t it!! The detail will emerge as time goes on. The scheme is to be known as the “Environmental Land Management Scheme” or ELMS. Advisors are already telling us that the detail is already way behind the proposed roll out in time so nothing new there. As we know only too well ELMS were trees which used to be a vital part of the Suffolk landscape. Now they are all dead thanks to an imported beetle. I hope the brave new ELMS scheme will survive better and produce the vibrant, busy countryside which we all crave. Full of birdsong, unpolluted streams and lots of farms growing nutritious food at fair prices. It could happen as long as the creators of it can be a bit pragmatic and practical and leave a bit of the government’s cash in the hands of those who have to do the work.

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