Farmers, like the rest of society, have become heavily dependent on plastic, polythene and all the other synthetics.

You would be amazed at the amount of plastic containers, polythene bags and wrapping that comes on to a farm. Even baler twine, so handy that it justifies being described as the farmer's friend, is made of polypropylene nowadays.

Mind you, plastic allows us to grow what were once considered exotic crops in colder parts of the country, where shorter growing seasons limit their yields.

For instance, modern machines have been developed to lay biodegradable plastic sheets on cultivated fields and fix them down so they do not blow away. At the same time, maize seed is planted through holes in the sheets that insulate the soil, retaining the warmth needed to encourage earlier germination and emerging seedlings to grow more vigorously.

The technique allows maize to be grown as far north as the south of Scotland. It's not intended to be harvested for grain, but to be made into highly nutritious silage that is ideal for feeding to high-yielding dairy cows. Being biodegradable, the plastic naturally breaks down during the summer and has all but disappeared by the end of the growing season.

Potatoes in Ayrshire are also grown under similar plastic so they can be harvested even earlier and fetch hefty premiums on an undersupplied market. Having said that, I do not think such "forced" potatoes are as tasty as those allowed to grow at a more natural pace.

Elsewhere, horticulturalists grow all kinds of fruit, vegetables and flowers in plastic poly-tunnels where they can control the environment with considerable precision.

Then there are also the plastic sheets used to wrap bales of silage, or to cover silage pits, so as to exclude air and encourage the fermentation process that pickles and preserves the grass, as well as the woven polypropylene that is wrapped round big bales of hay and straw.

As I said, I do not know where modern farmers would be without all those synthetic materials. The biggest problem is getting rid of it all, as it is illegal to burn or bury it on the farm.

Unbelievably, UK farmers produce a staggering half-a-million tonnes of waste plastic every year.

That estimate is based on the amount sold, and does not take into account the fact that a sheet of plastic can more than double in weight when it becomes dirty with mud.

Plastic sheets may well come neatly wrapped round a cardboard tube, or compactly folded inside a polythene bag, but once they have been used they seem to increase in volume a hundredfold.

It's their awkward bulk and dirtiness that makes farm plastics unattractive to manufacturers who specialise in recycling such waste. Not only are they awkward and expensive to transport, they also have to be thoroughly washed before processing.

Fortunately there are now good systems of packaging such material on the farm and there are firms willing to handle it if it has been properly cared for. One that I know of recycles it into a range of products such as strong, high-density plastic garden furniture, or robust boards that can be used to form lambing pens.

That's just as well, as the proper disposal of such waste is now a requirement for Single Farm Payment eligibility. Government officials demand receipts from waste disposal companies, and regularly inspect farms to confirm it has not been burnt, dumped or simply hidden out of sight.

Which brings me neatly on to my pet hate – unsightly stacks of big bale silage, that can spoil the views of our beautiful countryside. Quite frankly, a lot of such stacks of bales clad in shiny black, green or white plastic could be more discreetly sited out of sight in a hollow, or hidden from view by a wood or farm buildings.

Instead, almost as if in a defiant gesture of wanton eco-vandalism, farmers form such stacks in full view of public roads, hamlets and villages. Some even rub it in by painting smiling faces on the ends of the bales.

Most of us have to apply for planning permission for even the slightest alteration to our properties but irresponsible or, rather, uncaring farmers can construct these hideous eyesores wherever they please.

Even more amazing is the way that community councils and other pressure groups will object vociferously to proposals for developments like wind farms, but turn a blind eye to these ugly stacks.