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Steve Heard: Harvest frustrations, but we need to be more proactive in fending off unfounded attacks

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Waiting and waiting to start our harvest-15 days later than last year

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Impatiently waiting to start my harvest #harvestworries

I know we should expect to farm according to conditions and crops, not the calendar. But I am still waiting impatiently to start our harvest, now probably 15 days later than last year. It is enough to make me consider growing some barley next year, for no good reason other than I would not have to watch my neighbours start so early before me. Desiccation did not start until the middle of the month, and even then it was a very slow affair as we waited for the green oilseed rape crops to finish properly.

 

The combines are polished ready for action and for the first time, both fitted with an additional second sideknife. The drivers perhaps assume it’s a case of me trying to make their life easier, eliminating any potential heaps of straw from blockages and reducing headland wheelings. What they do not realise is I also intend to do some experiments combining crops at an awkward angle to the tramlines. This will then allow shallow cultivations or direct drilling to be done across combine swaths but working square to the field edge.

 

With milling wheat and human consumption spring beans both destined to receive what I consider a vital pre-harvest Roundup spray, I am horrified to read the current scaremongering campaign from the Soil Association across social media. With no evidence against glyphosate beyond a claimed ’probable’ carcinogenic effect, they failed to list it alongside cola drinks, canned tomatoes, sausages or any of a whole huge list of other foods apparently in the same potential category. Perhaps, most importantly, The Federation of Bakers has openly reported: “Where it is found, it is in such small levels it is nearly undetectable,” but none of this is mentioned in such a one sided argument.

 

I do not claim to know the answer, but as an industry we need to become more proactive to defend these unfounded attacks. Any protest against multi-national chemical companies will always be seen as an easy target to bias public opinion, but the conventional farming industry must be careful not to get caught in the crossfire.

 

Steve Heard, Leicestershire

Steve Heard farms at Illston on the hill, Leicestshire. He grows a variety of combinable crops on 1,192ha (2,945 acres) of land, which is rented and contact farmed. He also runs an arable contracting business, and is a keen user of new technology.

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