This Week in Farming: Big headers, weak sterling and Flindt

Hello and welcome to This Week in Farming, your regular catch-up on the best of Farmers Weekly in the past seven days.

Each week we look through five topics that have got tongues wagging and look ahead to what’s coming up on this week’s podcast.

Farewell to Flindt

As most of you will know by now, Charlie’s Flindt on Friday stint is coming to an end.

A few weeks ago we let him tell us why in a special extra-long piece but now his final entry is here as he reflects on how a farming retirement happens very slowly and then very quickly.

In a This Week in Farming exclusive, I’m delighted to confirm that his replacement in the weekly Friday slot will be none other than opinion columnist Will Evans, who most recently wrote this piece on the lessons of 1945 for today’s politicians.

Father-of-four Will plans to share more on the joys and perils of mixed farming in North Wales with four very opinionated daughters.

Fear not though, Flindt fans, Charlie will be swapping seats with Will and you’ll still hear from him every six weeks in the opinion section – and maybe elsewhere too.

Variety verdict

With wheat now safely in the shed, there’s still much to learn about which varieties performed better and worse than expectation.

Step forward, then, this handy review from Louise Impey, who spoke to experts including consultancy firm Ceres Rural, which analysed 137 crops across southern England and the Midlands to see which exceeded expectations in dry conditions.

Of course, not all crops have finished being harvested this season and the dry weather has taken its toll on potato yields says Norfolk farmer Mark Means.

“Unirrigated potatoes usually average 55t/ha – this season we’re looking at 40t/ha and maybe a bit below,” says Mr Means of JS Means Farms, near King’s Lynn.

High-input headers

It’s not just how crops performed this summer that matters but how the kit performed as well. How did your header hold up?

Our machinery team have been criss-crossing the country to find out just what combine operators thought of a variety of ultra-wide headers – the new must-have on the latest high-output combines.

Click the links to read real on-farm reviews of each of the following:

10.7m John Deere 735D
13.7m MacDon FD2 header
12.2m Claas Convio Flex

Currency drama

Beyond the farm gate, all eyes have been following the value of sterling against the dollar and the euro this week amid the fallout from Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s unofficial budget.

A weak pound means imports will rise in cost but our exports, such as dairy products, will be more attractive to overseas buyers.

Charlie Reeve dug into the detail on which farming sectors will be most affected.

Defra drama

The focus on the Treasury and the Bank of England hasn’t stopped scrutiny of new environment secretary Ranil Jayawardena, however.

Mounting speculation on social media about rumoured plans to modify the Environmental Land Management scheme drew the ire of a slew of green charities and forced Mr Jayawardena to eventually come out and clarify no major change was afoot.

The spat highlights how nervous campaigners are about Defra’s commitment to phase out the Basic Payment Scheme, particularly in the light of broader comments by Liz Truss about cutting red tape and boosting agricultural productivity.

This will please Jeremy Clarkson, who this week fronted a campaign to cut the rules governing farming in half in order to unleash farmers’ creativity to deliver for the environment.

In my leader this week I noted that while this uproar may have subsided, with mooted tax cuts to come there may be a resurgence in campaigning activity before the end of the year.

Listen to the FW Podcast

Don’t forget the latest edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast with Johann Tasker, Hugh Broom and Charlotte Cunningham.

This week they’ll be chatting what happened at the Labour party conference and diving deep into the benefits of fermented manure. 

Listen here or bring us with you in the cab by downloading it from your usual podcast platform.