Fieldwise ViewPoint - Dick Neale

Long Term Thinking

2018 is a milestone year for Hutchinsons, marking eight decades of service to UK agriculture.

As Hutchinson’s celebrates its 80th year, it has caused me to reflect on my own 35 years in the industry.

In all that time there has only been one constant and that has been change. From frequent CAP reforms to constant technological change in the way we produce crops and for me, that has presented challenges and opportunities to learn, adapt and progress.

In recent years nature has increasingly forced our hand in the need to change and adapt. The rise in resistance to herbicides, fungicides and insecticides has focussed the mind on alternative approaches to producing and protecting our crops.

My close, personal involvement with projects like our Brampton black grass centre has focussed in my mind the fact that so many natural, environmental, cultural and technological aspects can and must work hand in hand to deliver sustainable, long term solutions to the issues we face.

Soils, weed control and nutrition are the areas I now focus most of my working life on and they are subjects that are intrinsically linked by environmental conditions and biological activity, and you won’t find any of the answers in a can or a bag.

Government is clear that soils, the environment and ‘the public good’ will drive support structures for agriculture going forward and if we embrace, adapt and optimise the changes needed to manage soils more sympathetically, we can deliver ‘the public good’ in spades!

Long term thinking is required, and we all have the opportunity to engage and steer the government’s 25-year environmental plan so that it delivers real benefits for the environment, the public and agriculture in a way that implements change in a practical and achievable manner.

Healthy soils will be the catalyst for both environmental and business enhancement and this will require the most significant changes within farming businesses. Just like disease, pest or disease control, changes to soil management should be driven by science - this will involve less steel and more biological processes if we are to stabilise and improve our soils for the long term.

But this is change that we should not fear. Farming businesses will be more efficient, more profitable and more sustainable and we will continue to learn and adapt as we always have. The current pipeline for new molecules is amongst the most exciting I have seen in my 35 years, but it will be vitally important that we use these technologies as partners to the cultural and biological processes that we employ, if we are to maintain their performance long into the future.

Change may be certain, but Hutchinsons aim to be there supporting you along the journey.

Dick Neale