10 things you didn’t know about:

Farmers and farming


  • Three quarters of Britain is farmland 
  • The largest arable crop is wheat
  • Two thirds of farmland is grass
  • British farmers and growers produce only 75% of the food we eat
  • Ever day British farmers supply 31 million pints of milk, 19.5 million eggs and 11.6 million loaves of bread 
  • If a farmer sells a bullock from £700 he will often only make a profit of £50
  • There are 350,000 farmers in the UK 
  • Farmers and growers carry out unpaid conservation work worth more than £400 million each year 
  • The attractive patchwork appearance of the British countryside is created directly by farmers
  • The UK food chain accounts for almost 8% of the national economy

Food shortages


  • The global population will rise from 6 billion to 10 billion by 2050
  • The rise in population and wealth of India and China has led to as change in their diets which has caused the current food shortages
  • Some crops are used for bio fuels instead of food
  • World food stocks are at their lowest for 50 years
  • Climate change has also led to food shortages
  • Much agricultural land has been lost as cities have expanded
  • The world has only 10 weeks of stock left
  • Wheat had a 130% price rise in 2007
  • Agricultural output must double in the next 20 – 30 years
  • Many countries have stopped exporting wheat to protect their own positions



  • Agronomists are ‘crop doctors’, who inspect crops for pests, weeds and diseases
  • Without pesticides wheat yields would be reduced by 40%
  • All pesticide applications have to be recorded and may be checked by the government
  • Wheat growers spend £125 per hectare on sprays each year
  • Some pesticides are applied at as little as 5 grams per hectare
  • Slugs can completely destroy many crops and spoil the appearance of vegetables even in low numbers
  • All pesticides used in the UK have to undergo a rigorous testing procedure conducted by the government to check for safety to humans and wildlife
  • Many insecticides only kill the pest and leave beneficial ladybirds unharmed
  • Docks and thistles in grass pastures can reduce the yield of the grass by up to 40%
  • Organic farming uses three times the same area of land to produce the same yield as conventional environmentally responsible farming



  • Wheat is only 12% the cost of a loaf of bread
  • Wheat is grass with a very swollen grain that when ground produces flour
  • Wheat arrived in the UK 6000 years ago
  • 1000 – 2000 litres of water are needed to produce 1 kilo of wheat
  • Wheat is grown on 2 million hectares in the UK with a value of £1.2 billion produced every year
  • Wheat is used to produce flour or cattle feed > Wheat is a good source of carbohydrate and protein
  • The average UK wheat crop will yield 7.5 tons of grain per hectare, enough to make 11,500 loaves of bread
  • At the end of the Second World War, wheat yielded only 4 tons to the hectare
  • Margins around wheat crops create habitats for insects, small mammals such as hares and birds



  • Every year the average person in the UK eats 500 potatoes
  • One potato contains 45% of the vitamin C we need each day
  • Crisps were first manufactured in the UK in 1920
  • During the Irish potato famine in the 1800s, one million people died
  • The potato originates from Peru in South America
  • It would take an area the size of 56,000 Wembley Stadium football pitches to grow all of the potatoes we eat each year
  • Potatoes are planted between March and May and harvested between May and September
  • Potatoes are stored in special refrigerated strores so that we can eat them in winter
  • Potatoes yield 45 tonnes per hectare
  • Potatoes are so rich in starch that they rank as the world’s fourth most important food crop after maize, wheat and rice



  • Maize is used mainly a silage and fed to cattle during the winter months
  • Maize is planted in May and quickly grows to 6 feet tall
  • Maize and sweetcorn are different varieties of the same crop
  • There is no genetically modified maize grown in the UK
  • Maize is mainly fertilised with cow muck
  • Maize is harvested between September and October
  • Maize grows best in hot dry conditions
  • Maize see costs £125 per hectare
  • One hectare of maize is worth £1,250
  • In the USA, maize is used to produce bio fuel



  • Two thirds of all farmland is grass, nearly three times as big as all other crops combined
  • A dairy cow needs 70kg of grass a day (its own weight in grass each week)
  • In the winter cows eat pickled grass called silage
  • Permanent grassland or pasture is the main source of grass for cattle
  • The wet climate of the UK is ideally suited to growing grass
  • Silage is stored in clamps on dairy farms which keep out the air and allow the grass to pickle. Often the clamp is weighed down using old tyres
  • Grass is the cheapest cattle food
  • Grassland pastures give the British countryside its traditional look as hedgerows are used to keep cows in the field
  • Grass is of little feed value and hard to digest but is converted by cattle into milk and meat, both vital to our well being
  • The average dairy farmer spends 250 hours every year looking after the landscape



  • The cow is pregnant for nine months, the same as humans
  • The cow produces 7600 litres of milk each year (that’s 200,000 glasses of milk in her lifetime). She drinks 42 litres of water a day to produce this milk
  • A cow chews the cud for up to eight hours a day
  • A calf weighs 35 – 50kg, an adult cow 400 – 700kg
  • A cow drinks a bath tub of water a day
  • A cow has four stomachs
  • Milk takes two days to get to the shops from the cow
  • A cow can walk upstairs but not down stairs as its knees cannot bend properly
  • A cow’s spots are like our fingerprints – no two are the same



  • A pig is pregnant for three months, three weeks and three days
  • A piglet weights 1.2kg, whereas an adult pig weighs 250kg
  • The average litter size for a pig is between 8 – 14 piglets
  • Pigs eat 5% of their weight per day and drink up to 20 litres of water
  • Pigs live to over nine years of age
  • A mother pig is called a sow, the father a boar and babies are piglets
  • We use nearly all of the pig including their hair for paint brushes
  • Pigs have been domesticated for over 6000 years
  • Pigs can run a seven-minute mile
  • Pigs have been sent to war – they were used to sniff out mines on the battlefield



  • A sheep is pregnant for four months, four weeks and four days
  • Two lambs are born on average
  • Sheep live up to 13 years
  • The male (ram) weighs up to 150kg and the female up to 100kg
  • There are over 40 million sheep in the UK
  • Sheep have been domesticated since 10,000 BC
  • Sheep get two teeth a year up to the age of eight
  • New Zealand farmers pay tax on methane produced from the back ends of sheep
  • Sheep now have a smaller brain than their relatives of 12,000 years ago
  • Wool is water and flame resistant

Beef Cattle

  • Cattle have been farmed for beef in Britain for over 6000 years
  • Around 2.2 million cattle are killed for beef each year 
  • There are 77 different pure breeds of cattle used primarily for beef in the world
  • There are 22 different cuts of meat from fillet steak to brisket
  • Beef cattle consume just 5% of the world’s total grain production, and they account for less that 3% of the worlds global greenhouse gas emissions
  • A cow that weighs 1000 pounds will make a carcass weighing about 615 pounds. The carcass makes about 432 pounds of meat
  • Beef fat, called tallow, is an ingredient in soaps, cosmetics, candles, shortenings and chewing gum
  • Many medicines, including insulin and estrogen, are made from the glands of a cow
  • The salivary glands of cattle underneath the tongue produce 15-20 gallons of saliva a day
  • A thousand cows will produce 4 tonnes of manure a year


  • It takes a hen 24-26 hours to lay an egg
  • A chicken takes 21 days to hatch
  • Grocery store chickens are 5-8 weeks old
  • It takes 4lbs + of feed to make 1 dozen eggs
  • A hen lives an average of 5-7 years, but can live up to 20 years. She will lay eggs her entire life, with production decreasing every year from year one
  • Chickens were domesticated about 8,000 years ago
  • Chickens are the closest living relative of the tyrannosaur
  • Chickens are omnivores, this means they eat both vegetables and meat
  • A chikens’ heart beats at an amazing 280-315 beats a minute
  • Chickens are sociable animals, forming firm friendships preferring the company of chickens they know whilst avoiding those they do not

Crop Disorders

ECM 10 things crop disorders
  • POTATO BLIGHT is a fungal disease that destroys the potato tops and causes the tubers to rot; it caused the Irish Potato famine and still poses a serious threat to potato production in the UK
  • YELLOW RUST in wheat can reduce the yield by up to 30% , this fungal disease causes yellow stripes on the leaves as it reproduces using airborne spores to infect other nearby crops
  • BARLEY YELLOW DWARF VIRUS IN CEREALS is transmitted by aphids that feed on cereals. Once the crop is infected the virus cannot be controlled and causes stunting and yield losses of up to 50% as the virus prevents crop growth and development
  • SLUGS attack all crops especially in damp condition and often will completely destroy Winter Oil seed rape and winter cereal crops. In vegetable crops even a light attack can render the crop unsalable
  • SEPTORIA is the main yield robber of Wheat in the UK. This fungal disease is spread by rain splash and can defoliate wheat plants so badly that the yield is halved
  • ACIDITY in all leads to poor uptake of nutrients and the crop is starved of the building blocks of phosphate nitrogen and potash. In acid soils toxic minerals such as aluminium may be released that poison and kill the developing crop
  • GRAIN APHIDS land on the ears of cereals and suck out the contents of the developing grain leading to losses of a third especially in hot dry summers that favour the rapid breeding of the aphids
  • POTATO CYST NEMATODE is a microscopic worm that damages the roots of potatoes and steals essential nutrients reducing the yield substantially in potatoes grown in the UK. The problem builds up where the crop is grown a regular basis
  • CATERPILLARS eat and destroy the leaves of cabbages and other brassicas. Also the muck they produce renders the produce very unattractive and unsalable to the public
  • LEATHER JACKETS are the larvae of daddy long legs or Crane flies which are prevalent after ploughing up grass land. The larvae feed on the following crop and in severe cases will kill the entire crop