Drilling on hold, and irritating fuel problems.

The last 25ha of winter linseed to drill has been abandoned. Thanks to the persistent rain it is now too late to get the crop established so that it produces a plant large enough to survive the winter. We still have just over 100ha growing away nicely, but in need of a graminicide to remove barley volunteers. It is interesting to note that the competition from the barley has had much less of an effect on the growth of the linseed than it did on the rape.

It is just as well that my intended drilling date for the winter cereals was going to be after 15th October. Thanks to the rain, anything earlier would not have been feasible. So Jay and Ian have been hedge cutting and muck carting respectively while we wait. Next week does look more promising, so fingers crossed we will hit our target date to start drilling next year’s crops.

Two of our tractors have recently had fuel filter problems. We have a relatively new sealed diesel tank with its own filter on it. The problem seems to be widespread and can be attributed to the RTFO or Road Transport Fuel Obligation. This is the government’s policy of sourcing fuel from renewable resources. Ironically for farmers, a growing market for biofuels is disabling the machinery used to grow the crops which provide the fuel. The problem appears to be caused by the addition of fatty acid methyl ester – FAME – in gas oil and diesel. This, until recently, had been 4-5% inclusion but has now risen to 7% and is set to increase further over the next few years. According to my research,  FAME greatly reduces the shelf life of diesel, increasing water contamination and allowing bug growth in the tanks, resulting in blocked fuel filters.  It is a massive problem for the industry, as modern tractors simply go to ‘limp home’ mode when diesel pressure drops. If this happens whilst on the road or working on banks there are serious safety issues. Apparently this is now also affecting derv, so expect many more lorries and cars broken down on the side of the road. Can you imagine the chaos that awaits us if this happens on so called smart motorways with no hard shoulder?  Having had communication with our diesel supplier, their reply is that it’s not their fault and they have been forced into it by the government! They suggest using an additive, which is not a realistic option for those of us with sealed tanks. It needs to be sorted out and the most obvious way is for the fuel suppliers to include an additive. Obviously there will be a cost to us, but there is already with lost production and expensive fuel filters.

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