Farmer Focus: Bad flooding creates extreme planting conditions

What a year 2023 has turned out to be. Wet spring, wet summer, and an extremely wet autumn.

In my lifetime, I’ve never seen flooding as deep and as quick as last week. Our town centre of Downpatrick was completely submerged in 1.5m of water.

But in my lifetime, I’ve also never known the main Quoile river basin to have been dredged or cleaned.

See also: Farmer Focus: De-risking strategy looks sensible after heavy rain

About the author

Richard Orr
Richard Orr farms 160ha in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, with his wife and parents. He is an AHDB Monitor Farmer. Crops include wheat, oats, barley, potatoes and vegetables. The business also has a farm shop and beef cattle
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I am lucky that my potatoes yet to be harvested are on high ground. My main concern for getting them out is that we do not want a week’s hard frost on sodden ground.

Lots of other farmers have been less fortunate with losses, but the extent of the damage is only emerging, and an estimated 60% of crop is still in the ground.

Conditions for planting winter crops have been extreme. Many fields of mine, and of our neighbours, have the centre of the field planted and emerged, yet the headlands are still to plant.

Fields after potatoes, maize and vegetables are going to be very difficult to get planted.

I can see an increased interest in drilling spring beans in order to get soil opened up and help rectify the damage caused this autumn.

This past week has also brought mixed fortunes as I was delighted to be ratified to the AHDB cereals and oilseeds sector board, something my grandmother would have been proud of.

She always showed great interest in my work with other farmers and organisations.

Sadly, she passed away on the same day of the vote at the age of 95. It was a difficult funeral, and because of family relations I didn’t get to see my grandmother or carry her coffin.

But I remember the comments made by one lady at the graveside that will certainly stick with me.

“You were your grandmother’s blue-eyed boy, and she always said ‘more like your granddad Hutton than your father!’”

Remember folks, good family and friends are precious, don’t let the bad ones spoil that.