The farming column with Sam Walton

Black grass, one of the modern curses of arable farming.
Black grass, one of the modern curses of arable farming.

How time flies, into the sixth month already. Where does time go? It seems no time at all since I came to this farm 44 years ago.

That there has been drastic changes there is no doubt.

Wild oats are not as numerous as they used to be but still one of the curses of modern day farming.

Wild oats are not as numerous as they used to be but still one of the curses of modern day farming.

Have they all been for the better?

There is some doubt.

Production per acre on most arable crops has virtually doubled.

In some cases on the super first class land, on Sunk Island and around the Boston Fens, cereals, as an example, such as wheat and barley will have more than doubled.

That sounds great but the rent equivalents today for those who are tenants is a long way out of sync and as an example, 44 years ago, wheat was four times the price per tonne (£56) than land was per acre (£14).

I can assure you that wheat is not much more than 1.75 times the price per tonne now.

Yes, we have increased yield but we now have more expenses per acre than we used to have, sprays we never needed before, black grass control and a host of weeds which are probably due to no longer having a proper old fashioned farming system which would be unsustainable in today’s climate.

Having said that, if we carry on as we are, our modern farming system may not be sustainable in it’s present form either.

We have more population and more imported product to cater for their needs. We lose a lot of land each year which means less and less to farm.

We are encouraged to go into various countryside stewardship schemes, all with loads of red tape and woe betide you if you make an error.

My entry level scheme ends in November this year and I am now looking to see if I can put some small, difficult areas into a new scheme with wild flowers.

I just wish the forms were written for simpletons like me!