Country mouse on England’s green fields

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant land

Except it’s now yellow. The ubiquitous vivid flowers of oilseed rape have transformed the England of William Blake’s poem, which became the famous hymn. England now has a jaundiced view politically, economically and agriculturally. I know many who like rape’s gaudiness, but I miss the palette of Blake’s green. It is, however, here to stay, and, once the flowers have gone and the seeds set, the fields will turn black as the crop is sprayed with glyphosate to kill the plant to make it easier to harvest.

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However, rape has transformed the fortunes of farmers. It’s become the go-to crop. Once, it had a role as a ‘break crop’ in a farm’s rotation, but, with forward prices rising as high as £388 per ton, up from £240 in 2010, and the increasing popularity of sauces and oils made from it, we’re going to see ever more of the yellow crop. May’s greens and September’s golden stubbles will soon be nothing more than fading memories.

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