Many winter barley crops emerged at the beginning of last week in the part of France we visited with Lemken between Paris and Auxerre (a city soccer fans may be familiar with). Drills were busy planting winter wheat as well, while heaps of beet lined the road in places.

Sunflowers were still hanging their heads in some places, while soybeans and later-sown maize for digesters were all set to be harvested. Oilseed rape crops had mostly met in the rows with a strong green colour and were powering on for the winter.

While weather is drier and last week planting looked easier than in Ireland, many of the problems of French farmers are similar to Irish farmers. Delayed drilling is important for virus, disease and grass weed control.

In Ireland, we see more tillage farmers trying to bring livestock back onto the land and this was happening on one farm we visited as well. There is a focus on cover crops and vast areas are seen across the country as you travel the roads.

There is a push towards organics in the country, but the farmers we met are pragmatic, with one commenting that if it doesn’t work out, he will go back to conventional farming. However, on the organic farms we visited, there were clear plans in place to grow productive crops efficiently and there are more market options than in Ireland, with markets established for cereals, sugar, vegetables and wine.

Similar to Ireland, the organic farmers are afraid that as more organic farmers enter the system, the price of products will decline.

Anaerobic digesters are visible around the country, and solar panels on sheds and wind turbines are scattered in small bunches of five or so across farms. There is a different approach to energy production.