It was last Friday morning, the sun was shining and it had been dry for all of two days. The yard concrete was whitening off nicely, in a way not seen in a while. Although, we did get the slatted tanks emptied a fortnight ago in good enough conditions but it had rained a lot in the interim. Regular straw customer Mark was tying his load and he quipped: “Weather’s up and the pressure’s on – you’ll be busy next week.”

He had read my mind perfectly. The pressure is certainly on and there’s much to be done. The bould Bruno – no stranger to this column – has a classic but rude phrase to describe how excited some of his (male) contracting customers can become with the arrival of haymaking weather. I can’t possibly repeat it here but the same could be said of excited tillage farmers greeting the arrival of a perfect combination of sunshine and drying wind in the springtime.

And boy, is this drying needed. It’s been a wet winter and the soil has been saturated for much of it. The water table is very high and even normally dry ditches are full of water. That said, crops have wintered all right and we don’t have the bare patches of this time last year.

However, one swallow doesn’t make it a summer and patience will be needed before, at the very least, fieldwork for the beans can begin. We saved germination-tested bean seed and is now cleaned and ready for drilling, whenever. I’ll make a start on the first fertiliser round in the meantime and we’ve wheat which didn’t get an autumn herbicide and now is badly in need of tidying up. And there’s also ploughing to be done for spring barley…

Jethro Tull’s successor

They say you should never meet your heroes. Well, I didn’t exactly get to meet one of my heroes but I did get a personally signed copy of his book. I suspect the name Helmut Weiste will not be known to most of you but those of you who are tillage farmers will be very familiar with his revolutionary invention. To my mind, it ranks as of one of the most significant agricultural inventions of the past 60 years.

It’s ahead of the rotary combine, the round bale wrapper, the Samco maize drilling system and the Moore direct drill. To my mind, the only invention which comes close is the Lely robotic milker but you don’t want to know about them.

But dozens of different makes of seed drills worldwide use Weiste’s invention. It is of course the Accord pneumatic seed drill, with central metering which he invented at age 21. Despite studying Weiste’s book, I still don’t understand how it distributes the seed so uniformly. I bought my first Accord seed drill in 1986 and have owned three of them since plus one Moore and two Horsch drills which also use his pneumatic system.

I was an absolute fan (if you’ll forgive the pun) right from the first demo with Shay Lynch, Accord’s man in Ireland. Its forerunner, the box seed drill, invented by Jethro Tull back in 1701, could be banished forever. And you thought Jethro Tull was just a rock band...

But the path of a pioneering inventor can be rocky as development costs are colossal and not all good ideas stand the test of time. I’m thinking of the pendulum fertiliser spreader (only good to 12m), the rotary muck spreader and the CDA rotary atomiser sprayer.

The Weiste’s family company Accord was bought by Kverneland who were, in turn, bought out by Kubota. But do marvel at my new best mate’s (I wish) Helmut Weiste’s incredible invention as you pneumatically drill your crops this spring.