I was interested to learn that Crop Health And Protection (CHAP) is to launch a digital service designed to help England’s arable farmers predict the likelihood of pest and disease outbreaks on their farms. As any arable farmers worth their salt know, though, what we really need is a service that warns us about the biggest pest of all… this government coming up with daft or alarmingly vague post-Brexit farm policy proposals.
So it is that I’ve decided to launch my own digital service: Who Are These Clowns, Huh?! (WATCH?!).
CHAP proposes to warn us about field-level risks to winter wheat, winter oilseed rape and potatoes by analysing the relationship between real-time Met Office weather data, crop growth stage and reports of pests and diseases in local areas. This will now be backed up by my own WATCH?! which will warn arable farmers of threats like the approach of the end of the UK’s EU withdrawal period (less than 12 weeks’ time) without there being any credible food trade or farm support policies in place.
CHAP uses a traffic light system to demonstrate crop vulnerability to attack from the likes of sap-sucking, nutrient-draining aphids. WATCH?! will do the same for farmers and their susceptibility to politicians and their hollow assurances that “everything will be ok”.
So, whenever DEFRA Secretary George Eustice makes any policy proposals, WATCH?! will flash amber. If Trade Secretary Liz Truss announces “good progress” in trade talks with the US on chlorinated chicken imports it will start to flash red. Furthermore, I am considering placing an additional vibration alert as we approach 31 December” and arable farmers are potentially faced with tariff-free imports of Argentinian wheat.
Given the government’s record on farm policy, WATCH?! will not be fitted with a green light.
CHAP says that its digital programme will help guide farmers’ decision-making and prioritise which crops need treatment at what time. Chris Delf, business development manager for CHAP says that its digital service “does not take away the need for farmer or agronomist judgement but helps ensure plant protection products are being applied at the right time and in the best conditions”. WATCH?! will be different. It will only have one recommendation: “Never vote for this lot again”.
CHAP hopes to develop its ‘CropMonitorPro’ into other crops like winter barley, peas and beans and even an onion module restricted to downy mildew predictions.
Similarly with WATCH?! I propose to extend the service and develop an app so that arable farmers can access it wherever they are. The app will predict the severe risk of take-all affecting arable farmers’ pockets. Only a red light symbol will be installed.