In his first column of 2019, BEN BOOTHMAN, from Arable Advisor, in Pickering, heads outside to check on the conditions in the field

FIRST off let me start by wishing you all a happy new year from all of us at Arable Advisor. It’s been a couple of months since our last column, however over the winter months an agronomist’s diary tends to contain less farm visits and instead replaced with training courses, technical updates and if your lucky some annual leave.

This is a good time for agronomists to slip away for a week or two (or couple of months) to help recharge the batteries before this busy season starts off again, which with the extremely mild and relatively dry winter we have experienced here in North Yorkshire could be sooner than thought.

Field conditions are excellent for January which has triggered some eager farmers to dig out the spreader and start applying P&K compounds. With very few frosts some sprayers have even emerged from their winter hibernation, anti-freeze flushed through and manganese applications made to those crops showing early deficiency signs.

The kind conditions have allowed ploughs to re-enter fields and in many cases spring drilling has commenced. Even though there are more off label approvals for herbicides to help tackle the infamous blackgrass in spring barley, I would still delay rushing into these fields. Please be aware and check labels of flufenacet-based products when choosing what product to apply to these early sown crops. Theoretically spring barley drilled in January is classed as winter barley and label restrictions for winter barley must be followed.

Such an early start always makes me nervous, are we jumping the gun? Will there be something to come back and bite us?

Well as I write this the outside temperature is sitting around freezing and recent weather forecast are threatening reports of snow…..Beast From The East 3, or 4, or 5? I’m not entirely sure what number we got to last year.

Last week was our annual AICC conference where we have several days of technical briefings, product updates and trials results. As you will all have guessed one major topic was Brexit and what will happen to the agricultural industry as of 11pm on March 29, 2019.

Rather than the usual doom and gloom and the usual brainwashing that we won’t be able to export or import anything, supermarket shelves will be empty, food prices will rocket, and the Great British Pound will be worth the same as a Freddo, there was a positive atmosphere.

We were fortunate enough to have the president of the NFU Minette Batters as one of our guest speakers who summed up how many in the audience were thinking when she stated, “Once we get over this minor speed bump and we agree to work hard together we have the chance to shape what type of future we as an industry want to be part of”.

It is inevitable that agriculture will receive a reduction in support payments and the way in which farmers will receive them will be more environmentally driven rather than aimed at food production. I must praise many of my growers who are already voluntarily entering into many environmental schemes and increasing cover crop acreage, this not only helps improve soil health and fertility but also provides over winter food sources for a vast majority of our countryside’s wildlife.

This month’s fun fact – “Sheep can recognise up to 20 different human faces, and they prefer a smiling face to an unhappy one”.