Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 13°C

min temp: 9°C

Search

Farming opinion: Decision-making in farming is as complex as a game of chess

PUBLISHED: 06:00 28 August 2018

The combine in action at Brian Barker's farm Picture: BRIAN BARKER

The combine in action at Brian Barker's farm Picture: BRIAN BARKER

Brian Barker

On November 1, 2017, Brian Barker’s farm at Westhorpe, near Stowmarket, became the Agricultural Horticultural Development Board’s (AHDB) first Strategic Farm for Cereals and Oilseeds in the UK. This month he looks at the decision-making process

Stale seed beds with a weed flush of black grass Picture: BRIAN BARKERStale seed beds with a weed flush of black grass Picture: BRIAN BARKER

Farming is a sequence of decisions, made throughout the year by the farmer and his trusted advisers.

Each decision made will then have a knock on effect that could see immediate change; like the use of the correct pesticide to treat weed infestation, disease outbreak or pest attack. Other decisions could take a few years to pan out to see if the change was positive or negative. Strategies need to be fluid and flexible to change, given the risk that is associated with producing crops in such volatile and variable environment in the way of climate, politics and commodity price.

Like a skilful chess player,farmers will have strategies for all crops, fields and situation. Long term strategy of crop rotation is one that I have been looking at recently. I have a long rotation of 12 years built around growing herbage grass seed on a contract for seeding professional sports pitches and lawn turf. With my rotation plan I try and utilise different crops in an order through the years to allow me to bring other farming strategies into play. These other strategies come into play if the opportunity arises like cultivation; direct drilling can be used following some crops then a full soil inversion methods of the plough or deeper soil work like mole draining would be required elsewhere.

This will have financial implication as soil movement cost me money but also if will then have knock on implications to allow other farming techniques to be used such as cover crops or stale seed beds. Cover cropping is a technique that will rejuvenate soil and stale seedbeds will reduce weed burden but you can’t use them at the same time in the same field.

Cover crops at Brian Barker's farm at Westhorpe, near Stowmarket Picture: BRIAN BARKERCover crops at Brian Barker's farm at Westhorpe, near Stowmarket Picture: BRIAN BARKER

This then forces my hand with what pesticides I can use or normally can’t use, governing how I will have to meet different challenges through the year like potential increased pest pressure or disease carryover due to the strategies adopted in previous decisions some made two or three years previous.

However, if you make one wrong decision at any time with any of your strategies it could prove to be a hammer blow like losing your queen chess piece and pushes you back to the start or the weather will act the ‘stroppy loser’ and throw the board up into the air and all your pieces will land jumbled up and it will take time to get them all lined up again.

So as you drive around the Suffolk chess board of different crops, think about all the planning and preparations that goes into producing our raw food commodities. Some are successful and we learn by our mistakes. We enjoy our successes but I assure you it will never be ‘check mate’ for farming and food production in Suffolk as our industry is driven by a relatively small group of people dedicated to delivering year on year.

Search hundreds of local jobs at Jobs24

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other East Anglian Daily Times visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by East Anglian Daily Times staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique East Anglian Daily Times account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

With Christmas around the corner, Suffolk has retail temp jobs a plenty - but which jobs in other sectors are getting increasingly tough to fill?

A 10-strong group of councillors will decide on plans to expand Stansted Airport at a crunch meeting today (Wednesday, November 14).

Unemployment in the East of England has dropped slightly, falling by 1,000 to stand at 100,000 in the last quarter.

An Ipswich-based law firm operating across the East of England has promoted 35 of its most talented lawyers.

Staff at Tendring District Council-run leisure centres are getting ready to go the extra mile in aid of Children in Need – some literally.

Management Jobs

Show Job Lists

Most read

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

MyDate24 MyPhotos24