Don’t mention the weather…

Since I last wrote back in November, it feels like it hasn’t stopped raining – throughout the east, land drains and ditches are running and the opportunities for field work have been few. But, it seems we’ve got away with it comparatively lightly – the Met Office says that much of southern England and parts of the Midlands have already seen twice the average rainfall for January. Although there is the odd temporary pond around here, we have to remember it’s nothing like the prolonged flooding and submerged crops being experienced elsewhere.

Wet weather in winter usually means temperatures have been mild, and again according to the Met Office, the UK mean temperature up to the end of January was about 5ºC – over 1ºC above average. Certainly many crops that were drilled into good conditions last autumn look forward and disease pressure is clearly becoming an increasing concern going forward.

East Montage , Feb 2014

L-R, A very full ditch – a familiar sight this winter; a temporary pond in a field of winter OSR; a well-established crop of winter wheat; another ditch flowing well

If you want to read more, there are wheat and barley disease management guides available online and information sheets covering fungicide activity and performance in wheat and barley will be coming out soon. You can order copies of both the guides and the information sheets from AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds

Apart from the weather, there have been a lot of other things going on through the winter so far. We received forty expressions of interest from prospective Monitor Farmers in the East region – it’s been a very difficult task selecting just two for the first phase of the programme, but we hope to be able to make an announcement soon, so watch this space!

We’ve also run a number of events in the region with many more to come. The Malting Barley Breakfast in Norfolk gave growers a fantastic opportunity to tour around the maltings at Great Ryburgh, to see what happens after the grain has left the farm and the challenges faced during the malting process. We are very grateful to all those at the Crisp Malting Group for giving up their time for us, despite the thick fog.

For a full list of all the events coming up in the East over the coming months, including Milling Wheat breakfast meetings, Meet the Processor and Meet the Exporter days, take a look at the events page.

The one I would really like to draw to your attention is the Protecting Your Profit workshop on Tuesday 11 March at the Camgrain store just outside Cambridge. We all know that volatility, in both commodity prices and input costs, is here to stay. At the same time, the value of support payments is falling, so it’s becoming more important than ever to increase the resilience of farm businesses.

This free workshop will provide a one-stop introduction to key business management themes, looking at how you can mitigate some of the risks facing your arable enterprise. The speakers will cover the main topics affecting farming today, from global and regional markets to budgeting and contracts. Throughout the day there will also be opportunities for discussion with the experts and other growers to share ideas and develop strategies. So, to protect your farm’s profit in just one day, register for the event.

Finally, my top tip for the month is…Have your say in the future direction of AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds research:

How AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds invests in research is under review and the industry is being asked to voice its opinion on the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the cereals and oilseeds sector. To help us identify the areas you consider important for new research funding, please complete the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds research strategy questionnaire by 31 March 2014 and you could also win a hamper of British produce.

Now is the time to make your voice heard.



Tim joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds with more than 20 years of farm business experience in the East of England. Based at Huntingdon, Tim previously worked at the CLA, where he was Regional Adviser for the East of England. Trained in agricultural business management, Tim has also worked as a farm business consultant, specialising in the direct management of farms and contracting arrangements.