Don’t miss this month’s new look Arable Farming. Take a look at the digital edition today.
As I sit writing in my office in Suffolk the temperature outside is pushing 30degC, as it is elsewhere in the southern half of the UK. Harvest in these parts is drawing to its conclusion and, quite frankly, we could do with some rain. Oilseed rape crops drilled early to beat cabbage stem flea beetle are going nowhere and cultivators are wearing up metal at alarming rates.
Conversely, the weather map for the northern half of the country shows a large, blue, rain-denoting splodge, if I can put it so inelegantly, which is leading to harvest delays and sadly, yield and quality losses.
For many it has been and, at the time of writing, continues to be, a harvest of frustration and disappointment. Things got off to a shaky start, with the winter barley and oilseed rape results having done little to lift the spirits. Fortunately there has been better news as wheat has come in, although it looks very much as though achieving the five-year average will be a good outcome this harvest.
There have, of course, been some good results and we should acknowledge these and perhaps consider if there is anything we can learn from them, although as ever, the weather is beyond our control.
Growers will of course put their harvest disappointments behind them and move on to getting next year’s crop in the ground; it’s what farming is about. But as the long hours of harvest give way to the critical task of getting 2017’s crops off to a good start, let us not overlook the fact that a tough season lies ahead. Money is already tight, there will be no cushion provided by bumper yields this time round and the agronomic, economic and political challenges of recent seasons remain. Time indeed for clear thinking, informed decision-making and, yes, working together.
Away from harvest the discussions and debate around Brexit continue. Farming leaders have called on the Government to offer assurances agriculture will not be forgotten in trade talks – Department for International Trade papers published in recent weeks were reported to contain no mention of farming or food.
And while there have been Treasury assurances on funding for UK agriculture until 2020, what happens after that remains an unknown. Farming is a longterm business and for many the future is still uncertain.
On a final note, a little over a month after announcing the new season sugar beet contract offer, British Sugar is seeking more growers. Now that poses some questions.