Search

The government is almost at a stand still as Brexit looms.  It is all encompassing and saps the time and energy of nearly all government departments. As part of this DEFRA, under the guidance of Mr Gove, is planning to remove direct payments to farmers saying that they encourage inefficient farming practises.  I can see some sense in arguing against direct payments and do think there could be a better way. 


However, my worry is that the government is talking about removing direct payments before working out what will replace them.  This will surely lead to financial chaos and job losses within the countryside. No business can withstand this level of uncertainty.   


There seems to be a lack of government talk about the necessity for farmers to be profitable.  DEFRA focus is on the environment and not farmers making a living, but surely farmers can only be environmentally friendly if they are making a profit.  Farmers with no money won’t be planting trees, laying hedges or sowing nectar and pollen rich flower mixes into their fields.  Farming needs to be profitable first and foremost as otherwise farmers will cease to trade.  This will lead directly to job losses and economic hardship for many businesses associated with farming.


Whilst coming up with a new plan the government is talking about capping larger direct payments or implementing a policy of reducing large payments by a higher percentage than small payments.  I think that this will have huge unintended negative consequences for the rural economy.  Large farming businesses will downsize which will reduce investment in farming and cause job losses. Also large farms are often the most innovative and environmentally friendly so punishing them will harm future farming in the UK.  Moreover, the government needs to work out what system will replace direct payments BEFORE removing them.


Finally, if UK farmers are to compete on an international stage then they must receive financial support from the government as most other farmers around the world get this support.  We cannot compete on cost with foreign farmers who get government support if we do not.


I think it is also important that we all express our views to the government by looking at the consultation below.  Just click on the link and answer the questions.  It is pretty easy.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-for-food-farming-and-the-environment

Please tell the government what you think about this!

5 views1 comment

I am not a scientist or a knowledgeable environmentalist and I have nothing against organically grown crops.  However, I am a farmer who cares about our soil, bugs, creatures, wildlife and the environment and I have been thinking about the glyphosate debate.  Is it better to use it or not?


If we are to grow crops in the UK which are affordable to the general public then I think Glyphosate is necessary and is better for the environment than other options.  If Glyphosate were banned then to prepare a field for drilling a new crop we would have to either use other, possibly stronger but less effective, chemicals or increase our cultivations. 


The reasons for not pursuing  the first option are perhaps obvious - less effective chemicals could lead to weeds mutating and becoming resistant to chemicals which means we would bring about a need for stronger chemicals to do a less effective job in the future.  This would be a vicious circle. 


Option 2 is, in my opinion, worse for the environment.  Dragging heavy metal through the soil is hard work for a tractor, so a lot of diesel is used in the process.  Also, cultivating soil releases carbon into the atmosphere which I would imagine isn’t great for the environment either. Finally, as this method is not hugely effective, it requires many repeat cultivations to kill the weeds and prepare the seed bed. The end result is perhaps more pollution than using 1 pass of glyphosate.


On another note, Mr Gove seems to be pushing farmers towards using more cover crops in their rotations, as he believes this is more environmentally friendly and leads to greater soil health.  These thick green crops need to be killed before the real crop can be drilled.  Crimping (aggressive rolling of crops after a frost to kill the cover crop prior to drilling) can be effective if the circumstances are correct, but it appears that this method cannot be relied upon, as we will not always have a frost exactly when our drilling dates require. 


So all in all, I believe that Conservation Agriculture does require Glyphosate to ensure that farming is both environmentally friendly and productive so that the world’s population can eat food at affordable prices and live in a world with reduced pollution.

In the last blog I talked about how we are looking into Conservation Agriculture (CA) and how our soil wouldn’t be easy to convert.  Now we are coming to the thorny issue of how to convert, which might take a big leap of faith.  Some scientists say that a no tillage system requires the correct balance of calcium and magnesium in the soil and some scientists say this is nonsense.


Those in favour say that this ratio determines gas exchange, or the breathing capacity of your soil. The better a soil can take in oxygen and then release CO2 for photosynthesis the better your production. A soil without breath is like an animal nearing death and the Ca:Mg ratio governs this process.


The reasons given appear complicated. Calcium is a (relatively) large ion with two positive charges. These charges are attracted to the negatively charged particles of clay in the soil. This large ion attaches to clay particles on each side and holds them together as stable soil aggregates with air-space (pores) in between. This process, called flocculation, enables all-important oxygen to diffuse from the atmosphere into the soil.


By contrast, magnesium is much smaller, but also attaches to clay particles on either side with the two positive charges. However, instead of holding the particles together as stable aggregates with pore spaces in between, the much smaller magnesium ions pull them closer together. So, the higher the magnesium in your soil, the tighter it becomes, and the less it can breathe.


They argue that to get soil ready for no tillage you need to achieve the optimum ratio between calcium and magnesium in your soil and this, in turn, depends on the CEC of your soil. 


CEC is a measure of the clay component of the soil. A sandy soil might have a CEC of 4, while a heavy clay soil might have a CEC of 40. In the heavy clay soil you need more calcium to help push apart the high clay component. Here, the ideal Ca:Mg ratio might be 7:1. Conversely, in the sandy soil you might need a Ca:Mg ratio of just 3:1, because you need more magnesium to help create structure in a soil where there is none. Therefore, for optimum soil performance you need to get this ratio right.


If they are to be believed then we need to do some magnesium reduction by putting sulphur on the soil. However, some scientists say that this is all nonsense and changing the ratios has no bearing on your soil or yields.  It seems that we might have to do some test fields and see how it goes………………..

Long Whatton, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE12 5BG.  Contact: whattonfarm@gmail.com

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon