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I am writing this on an early train into London and the view through the windows is one of sunlight seeping through the mist in the wonderful Stour Valley. It is scenes like this, as I contemplate the crowded city streets awaiting me, which remind me how fortunate I am to live and work (mostly) in the countryside.
This morning’s frost was the third in a row and signalled the start of winter proper. It has been a long, open autumn but in terms of fieldwork at least, it is time to ease back and take stock.
An end-of-year editorial traditionally provides an opportunity for reflection, but I have to say I feel more inclined to look ahead than to look back. The year has been a challenging one on many levels and perhaps one many of us will be happy to see draw to a close.
Crops appear to be going into the winter pretty well set up, although talking to growers and agronomists at CropTec, there was plenty of mention of establishment problems caused by the very dry conditions in Kent and Essex. The acreages of failed oilseed rape crops mentioned were, quite frankly, horrifying.
CropTec was busy and the seminars as packed as ever, without doubt a sign of the hunger for information, analysis and advice in the arable sector. The focus on cost of production underpinning the event clearly continues to resonate with growers and agronomists.
The big topics of our sector were, as you might expect, very much to the fore: Black-grass, septoria and yellow rust, threats to the agchem toolkit, Brexit – almost six months on from the referendum and we are not really much wiser about what it means – although an aide’s carelessly displayed notepad has perhaps given us some clues.
I have no doubt the year ahead will bring its own challenges, with political and economic uncertainty among the main drivers. The rise in grain prices has to some extent softened the blow of disappointing yields but the dry autumn and in many cases shortened spray window might mean problems ahead for 2017 crops. We will also need to keep a close eye on, and be ready to respond to, European politicking around crop protection actives.
So as the old year draws to a close it’s time for some wellearned R&R. Abby, Marianne and I wish you all a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2017.