As I ponder what to write in this month’s article, I keep getting the overriding feeling that I should be somewhere else today.
Ah yes, the Royal Highland Show which should have been taking place this weekend, but for obvious reasons had to be cancelled.
I am a massive fan of the Highland and what it does for Scottish agriculture and having attended for many years, I still struggle to get my head around the fact that a pandemic which started thousands of miles away not only found our shores but on arrival, started a devastating chain of events that we could never have foreseen.
For the farming community the Covid-19 lockdown has probably had the least affect in terms of day to day life. For us, yes, it’s been incredibly stressful securing pickers for our fruit enterprise but aside from that growing crops and rearing stock has carried on regardless.
A good friend of mine who I would normally see at the Highland phoned me yesterday and felt that the loss of the agricultural show season would affect the farming community more than anything, especially in terms of people’s mental wellbeing, an opinion I share wholeheartedly.
Don’t get me wrong, Zoom is great, but it doesn’t come with the same atmosphere or allow you to nick your mates pint when he turns the other way.
June at Southesk has brought a welcome change in weather with not only sporadic spells of rain totalling 26mm but also a return to more cooler temperatures. A month ago I felt sure we would be harvesting in July, now I’m not so sure. However, I’m happy that the crops have slowed down somewhat and are instead focussing on developing yield.
I have well documented the struggle we have had with our oilseed rape crop this season and it seems that we still cannot get away from this crops desire to flounder.
A protracted flowering period which in itself suggests unexpected potential has been partially undone by a late infestation of pollen beetle larvae in the upper flower buds, something I have never seen before.
An evening application of insecticide for the benefit of our resident bees managed to kill the visual larvae, however, any of the little blighters that were inside a flower bud were left unharmed and are still there hanging onto the top of the crop.
With flowering almost over the damage is very easy to pick out with shredded flower petals and the absence of any pods on the highest most point of the affected plant.
The yield penalty is impossible to predict, however, for a crop that was already going to be difficult come harvest due to its variability, this has hardly helped.
As pointed out in last month’s article, where crop performance is compromised due to a dry season I do try to cut costs, and the oilseed rape has this year fallen into this category with not even half of the planned fungicide spent. Saving money in a dry year is easy though, it’s the wet ones that catch you out.
Our seven winter wheat trials for Agrovista are now about to receive their ear wash application of prochloraz and tebuconazole and are all looking well.
The trial site is on heavy land so has not struggled for moisture through the dry spring and with no significant septoria, rust or mildew to report there are no standout plots as yet.
However, only the combine and weighbridge will answer the most important question come harvest.
Speaking of which we have started preparing for the culmination of this year’s efforts with grain stores being cleaned and fumigated, the dryers being serviced, and I suppose at some point old Lexie will get to see the light of day and receive her annual shower.
For those in the South, all the best for harvest and for us in the North who knows, maybe we’ll manage to sneak a wee holiday.