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Latest agricultural and business news from Agri Assist and beyond

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Farming Today

  • 23/08/19: Sea eagles on the Isle of Wight, Medieval strip farming, Feeding charcoal to cattle

    The white-tailed sea eagle is Britain's largest bird and has been extinct on the Isle of Wight for more than two hundred years. This week six of the birds - which can have a wing span of up to eight feet - have been re-introduced on the island. For conservationists and ornithologists it's a welcome return, but sheep farmers say they're concerned about the safety of their lambs. In Scotland, where the eagles have already been re-introduced, there have been reports of lambs being taken by the birds. Sybil Ruscoe talks to both the charity behind the reintroduction project, and the National Sheep Association. With agriculture and climate change very much in the news lately, we hear from a farmer involved in an experiment to try and reduce methane emissions from his cattle. He's feeding them with tree-felling waste which has been processed into biochar - a type of charcoal. And concluding a week-long look at what modern farming can learn from the systems of the past, we step back in time and visit the land in South Wales which is being farmed using the medieval strip-farming method. What advantages can it bring to 21st century agriculture? Presented by Sybil Ruscoe and produced by Emma Campbell.

  • HS2 review, potato breeding, pesticide research and crops that are resilient to salt.

    The government's reviewing HS2 with a "go or no-go" decision expected by the end of the year. It's already cost seven billion pounds with 900 properties bought up and some already lying empty. The Country Land and Business Association says if the scheme is now scrapped, people should be compensated. Blight is the scourge of many potato growers. But at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, researchers are investigating whether wild potatoes from South America could help breeders create more resistant potato varieties. Since scientists discovered a link between widely used neonicotinoids and the decline of bees and other pollinators, the pressure has been on to find an alternative solution. We hear from researchers at the University of Sheffield’s 'Institute for Sustainable Food' who are working on a bio-pesticide which would target only pest species and leave pollinators unharmed. And after this summer, farmers on the Lincolnshire fens are only too aware of the threat of flooding after heavy rain. But some could also be threatened by flooding from the sea - if rising global temperatures lead to higher sea levels. We find out how scientists are trying to make crops more resilient to salt water. Presented by Sybil Ruscoe Produced by Heather Simons

  • 21/08/19 NFU concern about end of freedom of movement post-Brexit, land sharing, farming with nature

    Government plans to end freedom of movement on the 31st October could cause massive problems for farm workers, says the National Farmers Union. NFU horticulture board chair Ali Capper describes how she's been inundated with calls from farmers worried about staff being able to come into the UK after that date, even if they've only been away for a break. All this week on Farming Today we are going Back to the Future, hearing how traditional farming is being re-adopted, teaching new farmers old tricks. In this case, some farmers have found a way of grazing animals on their land and get the benefits of the manure, without actually having to buy in their own livestock. This week there's a Focus on Farming across the BBC and today it’s looking into the relationship between agriculture and nature. Neil Heseltine and his partner Leigh farm on the limestone uplands of the Yorkshire Dales at Malham and have just been presented with the National Trust’s 'Farming with Nature' award, for the work they’ve been doing to enhance and protect the landscape. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Beatrice Fenton.

  • 20/08/19 Grain trading, rural report, mob grazing, invasive pygmyweed

    A new report criticises Westminster for ignoring the concerns of rural communities and farming businesses. UK grain traders raise concerns about how this year's harvest will leave our shores if a 'No Deal' Brexit comes to pass. As part of our Back to the Future week, we meet a farmer who says mimicking ancient natural grazing patterns is not only good for the environment, but is also a healthier and more efficient way of feeding cattle. The National Trust is concerned that the increased popularity of lake swimming could see invasive New Zealand pygmyweed spread to nearby lakes on contaminated wetsuits. Presented by Anna Hill and produced by Beatrice Fenton.

  • 19/08/19 - Plant body clocks, BBC Focus on Farming and is farming going Back to the Future?

    New research is showing that plants react differently to agri-chemicals at different times of the day. In the lab, experiments have found that a plant's sensitivity to glyphosate varies meaning less herbicide could be needed at certain times of the day. We hear from one of the scientists involved. This week, BBC News will be focusing on farming - covering different aspects of the industry every day. We find out what it's all about. And is farming going Back to the Future? We're looking at how farming businesses are being made more resilient for the future by learning from the past. From growing ancient crops to going back to a mixed system - many farmers are finding their forebears knew a few tricks that work today. Presented by Sybil Ruscoe Produced by Heather Simons

  • Farming Today This Week: Harvest 2019

    It's harvest time on Farming Today and under grey sullen skies Sybil Ruscoe visits Cobrey Farms in Herefordshire to meet owner Henry Chinn. Across 3500 acres the harvest at Cobrey starts with rhubarb in February. In March thoughts turn to asparagus, before giving way to the summer months and the bringing in of potatoes and beans. This year they've grown sugar snap peas for the first time and Henry explains that because they're hand-picked it's a costly and labour-intensive process. Syb tries her hand at 'blueberry tickling' as she coaxes a few of them off their branches. The farm has up to 750 seasonal workers, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, and Sybil asks Henry what might happen to them after Brexit, and whether the Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme that has brought in additional workers from Ukraine and Moldova might be the answer. They also visit a Wheat field which needs to be cut soon as it turns out Wild Boar are quite partial to an arable appetiser. Producer: Toby Field

Agri Assist

  • In the know: Our summary of the impending changes to direct support that Brexit will bring.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: The Government announces that levels of farm debt are rising. Some fare better than others.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Feed-in Tariff to close.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Read our summary of the recent case of Moore v Moore that is another cautionary tale about proprietary estoppel.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Read our summary of the recent case of Wild v Wild, which concerns whether or not an asset is owned by a partnership or an individual partner.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: The law regarding plant nurseries and national non-domestic rates is clarified.
  • In the know​​​​​​​: Read our summary of the recent case of Gee v Gee, concerning proprietary estoppel.
  • Agri Assist launches In the know​​​​​​​ to keep those working in the rural sector up to date with the latest cases and relevant issues.
  • ... as is! Our new sister website aimed at helping farms and rural businesses is here at
  • Agri Assist is born. We are delighted to launch our site dedicated to helping rural businesses in financial difficulty.