Is there life down there?

Even my faithful assistant Paddy is starting to get fed up with looking for signs of life in our wet seedbeds. Depending on soil type, what we have sown so far is taking anywhere between 3 to 5 weeks to emerge. The hybrid  barley, as in the above photo, seems to take longer than the wheat. On the clay cap areas, particularly in the barley, there is nothing stirring at all. This leads me to think that it has either rotted away, been eaten by slugs or there may be an effect from the pre emergent herbicide. The daily trudge across the fields sees my mood turn from elation in finding something green to abject misery in the wet, lifeless areas. My spirits were lifted briefly last week when it stopped raining for a few days. Hope was dashed however, when we ventured out with the drill and nearly got the tractor stuck. We are all optimists, otherwise we would not be doing this job, so I still hope to get some more wheat drilled, but that will not be for a little while.  Perhaps I can slip out after Christmas lunch and have a go if it dries up. I have tried that one before and it doesn’t usually go down very well with my wife.

After my last post on fuel issues, I was contacted by several people with helpful suggestions, so just a quick update. It seems to be patchy across the country depending on which refinery/ fuel store it comes from. This is then a function of how much, if any, biofuel is included into the diesel. The brake cleaning fluid definitely works and gives filters a new lease of life when used to clean them out. There is a rumour that one of the fuel dumps has stopped including biofuel in the diesel until it can sort out what the problem is. If you have decent tanks like us, then it seems to be that the FAME added to the fuel strips the thin film that has formed on the tank sides and it is this that blocks the filters. Older tanks with sludge in the bottom, or a lack of filters, will suffer more. You need good tank filters which will also take out water, but they too will block up after a while. There is an alternative fuel called Gas To Liquid  (GTL) claimed to be carbon neutral, which can be stored for up to 5 years and has no FAME in it, therefore creates no problems with filters. It is produced by Shell, with Certas the sole supplier. Downsides, there is not much of it currently and it costs about 7p/l more. It will mix in with bio diesel but you really need to pretty much empty your tank first, so that you can escape any more filter blocking from the old fuel.

It was some welcome light relief today to have our annual farm visit from the year 2 students from Reading University. It’s always good to talk to the next generation of farmers and to discuss our great industry with them. As it’s World Soil Day, that topic was top of the list.

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