Notes from the cart track – January 2021

The first ten days of the new decade has given us a little frost, rain, fog and sunshine but no gales yet. At least leaving the European Union has not removed the variable British weather that we know and love! As one who did not want to leave, I must say that I am very relieved that even a poor deal has been struck and we must now all forget what has been in the past and make the best of what is to come. Some of the changes will be to our advantage, some will not. It seems that leisure travel will be messier which may result in more people staying in the UK. I hope that will not mean that our Suffolk roads will become much busier. A brief Sunday trip to North Norfolk, in our motor home last July, was so dire because of congestion on the narrow lanes, that Stonham Aspal seemed the best place around for leisure activities. It would appear that the quantity of folks walking, cycling, running and riding the footpaths on the farm since last March would indicate that others have the same idea.

Since the last notes, the only work done on the land has been to mark out the cover crops ready for spraying off before spring sowing and to drill our neighbours ex-sugar beet land with wheat. Conditions have been too wet to sow our two fields at Crowfield with oats. If the land remains saturated for the next month, that plan will have to be abandoned and beans put in instead. Spraying off the cover crops will be a challenge. They have grown very well through the wet warm autumn to the extent that, had the mixture been one we could harvest in some way, we would be highly delighted. We now have to spray them with a hefty dose of round-up which needs a dry leaf to stick to. Rather difficult to achieve with the very lush phacelia shielding the rye underneath. Dry days in February tend to be accompanied by strong wind. Not ideal spraying weather.
Many sugar beet growers this year had the worst crops they have grown for many seasons.

Partly due to unfavourable weather conditions but also to the ban on neonicotinoid seed dressings which were used to protect the crop from aphid attack. Aphids carry a virus which infects the plant with ‘sugar beet yellows’. Many crops this year were badly affected and the sugar content was anything up to 25% less. In some cases crops could have become unprofitable which in a high value crop like beet is very serious both to British Sugar ad the grower. So neonics are being allowed again for one year but with stringent rules. If a grower uses a neonic seed dressing on beet no flowering crop, such as beans, peas, linseed or a bird/pollinator mix can be grown for two year and no rape for 3 years on that field. The powers that be are obviously not going to allow us to protect our rape crops in this way. I have to say that I am very concerned about being pushed into using several doses of a kill all pyrethroid insecticide to try and protect the rape. This does not feel like sustainable farming.

Let’s hope that a better way can be found to grow a good safe oil producing crop for the UK
David Tydeman