Over the last two weeks, my travels have taken me as far as the Scottish Borders right down to glorious Exmoor. Along the way I've been stopping off to visit customers and present to growers, both of which have offered me a fascinating insight into where the farming, greening and sporting worlds are currently at. To better explain, I thought it would be good to write about each sector in detail.
From some of the UK's worst conditions in years courtesy of the #beastfromtheeast, to current ponderings about when the sun might shine again, the impact of our weather seems to be a common theme.
Many growers spent more hours clearing snow off rural roads than working the land and, once the snow finally did clear, even more time in the office than might have been expected. This has led to discussions around how best to deliver Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements and whether stewardship schemes should be investigated further. The move to address the former is to utilise poorer land and the simple answer to the latter has been "Yes!"
With the RPA launching their Basic Payment Scheme 2018 campaign, via a 5.15am text message, the focus (until the sun comes out) will be getting a head start on the tedious but vital claim paperwork.
Never has soil, water and biodiversity been in the spotlight so much. With Government policy very clearly set out within the 25 Year Environment Plan, growers have a direct signpost pointing towards the way ahead.
Marginal land is present on every farm and can be used effectively for EFA requirements, agri-environment schemes or both.
Withdrawal of the use of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) within EFAs is causing a stir and some initial issues for those who relied on peas or beans to fulfil their obligations. Many discussions now centre on the best way to meet EFA requirements with a blend of hedgerows, buffer strips, fallow and catch/cover crops in the mix.
Agri-environment schemes are certainly becoming more attractive. They help to provide some security whilst we head towards Brexit and beyond, with well-placed schemes delivering good revenues for your business whilst also meeting agronomic, habitat sporting and soil/water requirements.
In fact, the new Simplified Countryside Stewardship options only asks for a minimum of 3% of the arable area to be planted to wild bird seed and nectar flower options, which is easy to find on most units.
Shooting is (excuse the pun) booming! Demand for quality shooting across the range from small walked up days to larger driven days is high. This in turn generates the need for high quality habitats in terms of holding and driving cover. Currently, much of our work involves assessing overwintered kale mixtures to see if they will carry into a second year. Stands with potential will be top dressed with nitrogen and sulphur – when the sun comes out and it warms up they will romp away, providing good cover, pollinator habitat and abundant seed for next winter.
Perennial crops such as chicory and reed canary grass are slowly waking up and they too will grow rapidly in the coming weeks.
Autumn-sown brood rearing covers planted for wild game are looking in good order and will be delivering excellent habitat for a range of farmland species from May through to July.
All in all, every day is varied, exciting, interesting and sometimes challenging with never a dull moment. It is a very rewarding time of year with much to look forward to over the coming months as we share our expertise and help our growers integrate their varying business requirements.
If we can help to support you with any of the above, please feel free to get in touch.
For specific advice for your business related to this blog or any other aspect of crop production get in touch with Kings.