A fascinating spring continues. Since the beginning of March we have had 19 millimetres of rain with 18 mm in one 24 hour period on 22 March.

Needless to say that means it is getting very dry. Water companies are getting jittery about water supplies especially where they are drawing from surface water courses. On the other hand spring drilling was easily finished in March with good seedbeds and everything rolled tight with flat rolls.

It is all up and does still have moisture down around the roots. So it continues to grow but both beans and barley are showing stress. Granular nitrogen has not had sufficient rain to wash it in on winter or spring crops and again that is causing stress. Still, one decent shower would put that to rights and that should arrive some time this month or next.

The other feature of the weather was the very warm temperatures in late March and early April when we saw 20 degrees centigrade plus, and very warm nights. That pushed winter crops on rapidly, probably making them a fortnight early. With strong wheat crops, we were applying T0 fungicides too early by the calendar. But we could easily find yellow rust in susceptible varieties and that needed treating.

In some cases the disease still went through another cycle before the fungicides stopped it and yellow patches were clearly visible in fields. The current dry conditions are slowing crop growth down to a more traditional timing and paradoxically lengthening the period between T0 and T1 fungicide and growth regulator applications. Where the yellow rust was apparent we have had to go with fungicides and hold growth regulators until we reach the correct growth stage when we will be topping up with additional fungicide to cover the correct leaves. This is more cost but protecting more yield with a better monetary return. Yellow rust is easy to control early in the season and manageable thereafter with a comprehensive fungicide programme but the disease can be devastating if you let it get out of control. So investment in additional fungicide in these circumstances is always going to be good value for money.

The other fascinating aspect of this spring is politics and the snap election which no doubt had been occupying the prime minister’s mind for months. Just when the moment had all but slipped away the decision was finally made and Theresa May showed she could be decisive as long as she had plenty of time to think about it. Strategically, this is no doubt a good decision as it should give her five years to get Brexit done and a majority sufficient to ignore the temper tantrums of factions in her own party along the way. No doubt some would caution that anything can happen when you ask the electorate but the alternative really is chaos and I hope and trust we do not choose that path.

So what might it mean for agriculture? Well it does give us the opportunity to ask our MPs just exactly what their manifesto commitment is for our industry in the light of leaving the European Union. We should particularly ask those who were adamant leavers and promised so much in the referendum campaign only to turn their backs on those promises when it was won. I would certainly include George Eustice in that group.

The trouble is that in Europe we have spent 40 years producing a system that accords with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and works tolerably well, with known costs and outcomes. It’s a system that gives bureaucrats a semblance of control which can be fine tuned every five years to rectify any mistakes or aimed at new objectives.

The UK parliament does not particularly like it but devising a better workable system will be a challenge. But I do expect a replacement system because I just cannot see the rule book being ripped up and agriculture left to do what it wants with the countryside and devil take the hindmost. As I have said before, it is the context of that system that depends so much on where we get to in a free trade deal with Europe. Get that and we have a manageable external tariff and trading structure. Fail and we have huge challenges as an industry and a country. Either scenario will require a UK agriculture policy. Volatility or the more prosaic version of world prices below UK production costs will need management as it is beyond producers’ control and if we work on the basis that we are a strategic industry, then government has a responsibility to maintain productive capacity at a strategic level.

The government clearly interferes in most strategic industries either directly or indirectly. Our standards of production may well exceed our competitors but it is our competitors’ price that will prevail. If our costs go up due to regulation or industry standards that make us uneconomic then it is of great concern if there is no support system in place.

Pesticides are key to all parts of agriculture and Europe’s current position of politics outweighing science cannot carry on in Europe, let alone a UK outside Europe. Sustainability means different things to different people, but for many of us if we are not profitable we are not sustainable as businesses. Environmental schemes are politically a key area for delivering public goods but I fail to see what attraction they have if they are isolated from any underlying support and are based on income forgone which is necessary to be WTO compliant.

We already know regulation is likely to be levered straight from EU law into UK law by the great repeal bill with a review over time and subject to the needs of any EU trade deal. So no great saving in that respect for a while. While I am not happy with the current system I would like to understand how any alternative works and how we manage transition from the current position to whatever the new world holds.

If you see any prospective parliamentary candidates between now and 8 June – especially if they are likely to be part of the next government – do take the time to make some of the points above. I doubt you will get any answers or commitments but it has to be worth the effort.