It is safe to say that autumn 2020 did not play out like I had hoped, however we are significantly ahead of last year.
All winter cereals are drilled, although it is not all looking as good as I would have liked.
We had a 10-day window in October to get the majority of the cereal drilling finished, and except for a small opportunity in early November, the drier conditions during the remainder of the month have not been sufficient to allow the last few fields of winter beans to be finished.
Despite most of the field area getting close, some headlands and field corners have remained too wet to drill.
One area destined for winter wheat never dried out following the rain in early October, so it was switched to spring barley, with an area destined for spring wheat replacing it.
This was drilled in early November and has been variable coming through so far, with the lighter land moving quickly, but the heavier land taking its time to emerge.
Despite high results from the germination testing carried out on the seed held over from autumn 2019, it is clear that overwintered seed does not appear to have the vigour in challenging field conditions that new seed should.
The drilling that was carried out closest to when it rained was the poorest to establish and I intend to assess the situation in the new year to identify what will be required.
In fields with only small areas of crop loss I am keen to spin on a low-cost cover when it dries up in the spring to ensure there are actively growing roots in the ground to improve the situation for next autumn.
If there are any more significant areas of crop loss, we may look at alternative crops in the spring.
Thankfully we were able to get up to date with spraying in relatively good time.
The majority of pre-ems were applied before crops emerged, however there were a few fields where the timing slipped.
These had a ‘lighter’ peri-em application instead and, so far, this has not negatively impacted either crop growth or grass-weed control.
In fact, there has been little in the way of black-grass germination so far this year.
Aphid pressure has also been lower than expected, with just the earliest drilled wheat receiving an insecticide.
Having caught up with outstanding operations, and the chance of getting any further beans drilled being slim through November, the team has been able to focus on some of the winter workload, which this year includes moving base as well as the usual machinery maintenance. Having outgrown the space we currently occupy we are in the process of converting some cattle buildings into a new workshop, machinery store, spray store and seed store.
There has been a fair amount of work to put in, new concrete panels, new entrances and generally get them up to spec for our requirements.
It is exciting to look forward to utilising the new space, however it is also quite a daunting task to get everything moved and up and running – hopefully before spring.
One of the shareholder farms is entering a major higher tier environmental scheme in 2021, so we have been working to ensure that we will be able to meet all the new requirements.
There are some field scale options going in after harvest as well as an increase in the amount of small plot work from the previous HLS scheme.
I am comfortable that we have the ability to meet these additional requirements, but this backs up my thinking that our replacement policy for machinery going forward will very much need to bear the stewardship work in mind as well.