Spring has definitely arrived. The swallows are back, a friend of mine heard a cuckoo last week, I narrowly avoided running over a hedgehog in the farm drive as I returned home one evening and the queen wasps are waking from their winter sleep in large numbers.

It has been a busy April with more crops to sow than normal and the changeable weather has resulted in fewer days when tractors could work the land. However the April showers have helped seed to germinate and washed recently applied fertiliser into the root zone. Dry days have been interspersed with showery ones which has allowed us to get up to date with spray programmes to control unwanted weeds, pests and diseases.

For many years autumn has been our busiest time when harvest has been quickly

followed with wheat and oilseed rape sowing but rotations are changing in favour of more spring-sown crops. Our cropping plan this year includes no fewer than 12 crops including quite a list of unusual ones including quinoa, borage, echium, linseed, camelina and peas.

There are several reasons for this. To begin with, recent changes to legislation require farmers to grow a wider range of crops if they wish to receive their annual BPS, or Business Subsistence Payment. Farmers are also encouraged to leave more stubble undisturbed until the spring to help wildlife and reduce nutrient leaching.

However, the main reason for this change of cropping is to try to control weeds which only germinate in the autumn. The main one of these is called blackgrass, a

particularly pernicious weed which is so aggressive that it can reduce yields by over 50 per cent. Before the days of agrochemicals farmers controlled the weed by not sowing before October 20. Then for about 50 years chemical control provided the answer as farm efficiency was improved by sowing earlier and earlier and covering more acres before the winter storms arrived.

The latest worrying proposal regarding future control of all weeds is the proposed ban on glyphosate, an agrochemical with half the toxicity of vinegar and one-third that of common salt, and only one-tenth as carcinogenic as caffeine.

I recently noted that a field in Suffolk, once farmed by a leading organic farmer, had become so severely infected with blackgrass that the owner had reluctantly decided to spray off the field and start all over again. What did he resort to using? The safest chemical available, glyphosate, as used by farmers and gardeners all over the world. A US Agricultural Health Study which has tracked 89,000 farmers and their spouses for 23 years has found “no association between glyphosate exposure and all cancer incidence”. Despite that, the work of some pressure groups has persuaded the World

Health Organisation to call for a ban. I fully understand people’s concern over environmental issues but we do need to eat and we can do that best by using our scientific knowledge responsibly