Russell McKenzie: 'UK farming has an important role to play'

arablefarm lifeBlack-grassBrexitPolitics+-

Russell is farm manager for John Sheard Farms and a partner in the family farm of D.J. Tebbit, responsible for a total of 995 hectares (2,457 acres), with land crossing into Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Cropping is split between winter wheat grown for seed, milling and feed, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, spring beans and spring oats. Russell is an AHDB monitor farmer and a 2014 Nuffield Scholar.


I was determined not to mention the ‘B word’ and it is not Brexit, but it is that time of year when just as you think you have done a good job with your autumn herbicide programme, the dreaded brown haze of black-grass patches rear their ugly heads.


On the whole, the combination of delayed drilling and robust residuals have done an excellent job and there are odd patches in some fields, but a couple of fields are disappointing and these have been in second wheat situations. The frustrating thing with these fields is they have not exhibited any numbers of black-grass plants in recent seasons, so I am perplexed to understand where they have sprung from.


It may be a whole manner of things which have caused it, but it is a stark reminder as to why we now grow very little second wheat and why spring cropping and a sound rotation is vital in combating this most deadly of foes. It does cause a certain amount of worry when we experience a dry period as we have recently, especially with a large area of spring cropping, but we have been fortunate to have received decent rainfall last week which has seen crops motoring through growth stages.


I found it amusing when I spoke to someone who complained they could not get on with spraying. I did ask them ‘what would you have said if it had not rained?’ as the consequences would have been dire for many of us if it we had missed it.


Flag leaf sprays are complete on the wheat, which have raced from GS37 to booting in less than 10 days, staggering to see. Regular crop inspections have been vital for nailing timings and time will tell if we are going to see much response to fungicide programmes this season.


What cannot be avoided is the hullabaloo running up to the General Election, name calling, manifestos leaked, politicians who cannot add up, about-turns on policies among the many dull party political broadcasts. It all gets rather boring and the only thing which is missing is maybe a marshmallow eating contest or even a Great British Bake Off between the political leaders.


It is equally frustrating in our industry where over regulation and biased negative press can paint farming in an unjustified negative light. I just hope that whoever is in Government realises UK farming has an important role to play in our country.

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