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Steve Heard: Mother nature isn't listening to me

Insights

It seems a rather boring trait that I so often start my articles with a moan about the weather. Frustratingly, mother nature does not seem to have fully appreciated my intention or my great efforts to avoid any unnecessary soils movement and is fast undoing all my hard work.

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Having used our new low disturbance drill last autumn to such great effect and having enjoyed pleasingly clean over wintered crops, unseasonal dry weather has now thoroughly cracked our clay soils and guess what? Previously dormant blackgrass has seized its opportunity and is racing to the surface from various depths, lining these new fissures in the soil with a mass of green shoots. I am not best pleased. Fortunately my direct drilled spring beans look remarkably well considering the miserly 3mm of rain they have received in the last three weeks.

 

With my last season crop fortunately all sold, I am for once grateful for the constraints of my tight cashflow forcing earlier movements.

 

As wheat prices dive again to a new five year low, I`m not overly optimistic for the short term future. Crop budgets are being revisited and my fungicide programme is being trimmed accordingly, T1 applications have ignored the latest trends and reverted to the old cheaper chemistry. A large proportion of my OSR crop will also try to take advantage of the cold dry weather as we wait to apply just a single schlerotinia fungicide instead of a typical more costly two spray programme.

 

Perhaps lower prices will bring some opportunities, the global downturn in agriculture is surely going to bring a realisation to the chemical, fertilizer and machinery markets. I have been reading that major machinery manufacturers have slashed factory working hours by 40 per cent and shown a 56 per cent slump in profits. Doubtless there will be some more attractive shiny metal deals than in recent years, but with no money to spend I doubt I shall fully benefit from the capital allowances tax relief before it finishes at the end of the year.

Steve Heard, Leicestershire

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

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