Don’t miss this month’s new look Arable Farming. Take a look at the digital edition today.
I have been thinking about uncertainty lately. There is a lot of it about. And there is an understandable tendency to view it as a negative state. Brexit (whether you are a leaver or a remainer), shock election results, previously out-of-favour former Cabinet Ministers handed a route back to Government by way of Defra – none of these give us any feeling of certainty.
But then it struck me that uncertainty is in fact pretty constant and certainly so in agriculture. And most of the time we deal with it, we think more critically, we face up to the challenges and we prepare for the unexpected.
Look no further for evidence of this than in the pages of this month’s issue: out-of-the-box agronomy thinking happening right now on UK farms; advances in plant breeding; technology innovations showcased at Cereals – I could go on. It is probably not the instinct of most of us to be at ease with uncertainty, but we should not be afraid of harnessing it as a driver for change.
So we have got the Gover – aka Michael Gove – at Defra. Undoubtedly very clever and equally ambitious, it is his integrity some will question. As Arable Farming goes to press the new Minister is meeting farming leaders. Initial reactions from across the industry have been mixed. His time at Defra will probably be short, but let us hope his appetite for reform can be channelled to deliver some positive outcomes for farming in the coming months.
There has been mixed news on the crop protection front in recent weeks. Signs of a more considered approach in Europe to pesticide approvals has been welcomed, albeit cautiously. The reapproval of pendimethalin for a period of seven years – the maximum permitted for a candidate for substitution – will be a relief to growers. But concerns remain over glyphosate, neonicotinoid seed treatments and crop protection actives which may yet be classified as endocrine disruptors.
And there has been dismay and disbelief at the news the European Parliament has voted in favour of a ban on use of crop protection chemicals on nitrogen-fixing crops, fallow, cover and catch crops contributing to Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). At the time of writing the ban was expected to come into force on January 1, 2018, although farming leaders were seeking clarification from Defra. Do get in touch on any of these issues; we would be interested to hear your thoughts.