FARMING: Common sense needed from EU

Lincolnshire Show.'Parade of livestock into the main arena.
Lincolnshire Show.'Parade of livestock into the main arena.

I spent a fruitful four hours at the Lincolnshire Show on the Thursday but left to start my final ‘Earwash Spray’ on the winter wheat in the early afternoon.

Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived in the farmyard the heavens opened and 16mm of rain fell in the next two hours.

In 2012, this fungicide spray proved to be most important for probably both the yield and the quality of the grain harvested.

The timing of the spray application is critical as the job must be done during early flowering - before the anthers start to fall from the ears in order to control Fusarium.

If the application is delayed by wet weather, especially if the humidity is high, the harvested wheat is likely to be high in Mycotoxins and could fail the DON test, thereby stopping the crop being made into bread by the millers.

There is a range of Triazole fungicides used by farmers to control a wide range of plant diseases including Fusarium Ear Blight and they have been applied commercially for more than 30 years without any food, safety or environmental concerns.

The European Union is under pressure from the environmentalist lobby to ban this group of chemicals on the basis that they have the ‘potential’ to cause environmental damage.

The training programme and testing of sprayer operations on farms is vigorous and all operators must follow the instructions for using these chemicals in order to stop any chance of causing damage to the environment.

As the Triazole group of fungicides is the only one that controls Fusarium Ear Blight, the Strobilurins can actually worsen the problem, the milling wheat producers are being left in a precarious position.

The Mycotoxin test was introduced by the miller a few years ago - with the backing of politicians - in order to improve the quality of flour used for breadmaking.

The same politicians are being asked to ban chemicals that assist farmers in supplying the high quality grain the millers require.

This is one of many problems we, as farmers. have to deal with. S omehow common sense does not come into the argument.

If there is a political will to ban the Triazole group of chemicals - and others - they should firstly allow the use of genetically modified crops before enforcing a ban. GM is seen by pressure groups as a danger to food and the environment but this is not the case.

On my farm, I have spoken of resistant blackgrass in wheat and the lack of any new chemistry to control the weed.

In the absence of a return to straw burning - the best way of controlling weed seed after harvest - GM may provide a way around this problem weed as it already does it in oilseed rape and sugar beet crops outside the European Union.

The 48mm of rainfall that has fallen in June brings the annual rainfall total to 224mm. This figure is below average but there is sufficient water in the soil to ensure the crops finish well.

I cannot believe how much improvement there has been in the past month. Cereals and sugar beet are now looking fine,but the oilseed rape is going to provide problems with dessication as the crops maturity varies widely across the field.

Providing there is not a heatwave in the next month - sunshine and 20deg C is fine - I see no reason why my crops should not achieve good yields. I never thought I would be saying that in April.