The farming column with Sam Walton

Drilling wheat by satellite.
Drilling wheat by satellite.

How long will it be before we have robotic machinery on our farms?

I know sci-fi excites a lot of the younger generation with the various escapades seen on TV, so it may one day be possible.

The satellite equipment inside the tractor cab.

The satellite equipment inside the tractor cab.

We have had satellite equipment fixed to tractor cabs for a number of years which can tell you which part of the field requires varying amounts of fertiliser, and applies it accordingly.

Combines and pea vines can be steered by satellite and it is amazing how precise it is.

My contractor has satellite fixed to his drilling tractor and this autumn was the first time I had seen it at work.

It even compensates for sideways slip on a hill or bank side and it can also control the seed rate.

The mind boggles.

There is obviously exciting times ahead for the younger generation coming into our great industry.

Having said all that, there is still a skill, a thrill and a satisfaction in either ploughing, cultivating, drilling or harvesting by hand and eye.

Men are proud of keeping things in straight lines.

That goes back to the day of ploughing with horses.

We have had some skilled operators over the years but it looks as if we are going to have farm technicians in the future with totally different skills.

Having said that, I remember on my last visit to Australia, being on a farm where the drilling was done by satellite and as the fields are quite long there, an operative on a crawler tractor left the cab to sit outside on the mudguard as it was a really nice day and his air conditioning had packed up.

With the vibrations of the tractor the door closed itself and when he tried to get back into the cab at the end of the run he found the door had also locked itself and he could not get back into the cab.

The tractor kept on going and landed up in a huge ditch!

I wonder if we will ever get technology to prevent that also? Maybe it is just as well I am the age I am!

I still keep wrestling with Brexit and the effects it is likely to have on not only farming but our lives in general.

I am not a politician, just a humble country peasant who fumbles and stumbles his way around.

I am one of those who consider farming to be by far and away the most important industry in any country, let alone the UK.

We can do without anything other than food and water when it comes to the crunch.

Where would we get food from if UK agriculture was binned?

I know there are those about who think it is cheaper from abroad. It would not be if we had no agriculture.

Farmers do have a wry sense of humour (and they need it) and I had to laugh when a farmer was being interviewed after winning some competition and a useful some of money.

He was asked what he would do with the money and keeping a dead serious face replied, “keep on farming till it has all gone”!

I can sympathise.