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Talking arable with Neil MacLeod: 'Tired of listening to the rain battering off my bedroom window'

As I write this article on June 24, I must admit to feeling somewhat tired of listening to the rain battering off my bedroom window at 5am, an occurrence that has been quite regular over the last month. 

Well it needs to stop – otherwise, come harvest, huge amounts of yield potential in our crops will be compromised as the ears, starved of sunshine, struggle to fill. The pattern of weather we have experienced this June is, to be fair, more common an occurrence than not – with cool temperatures and frequent downpours quite regular,. However, after last year’s scorcher, it is all too easy to forget the norm.

 

Prior to ear emergence, the conditions really put me neither up nor down, as the cooler temperatures allow time for crops to go through their most important growth stages at a more relaxed pace but, with ears on some of our forward wheats having been fully emerged for the last two weeks we have had to go over budget on our fungicide programme to take account of the conditions. Our usual T3 application of tebuconazole + prochloraz has been bulked up with chlorothalonil for lingering septoria and, more surprisingly, yellow rust in our Bennington wheat has received an extra dose of azoxystrobin to keep on top of a disease we don’t often see this far north, especially not in a wet year.


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Missed

With a yellow rust resistance score of 6, Bennington is a variety I am growing for the first time and, although the levels of rust have been a surprise, they have also been a good lesson to our trainee sprayer operator, particularly in correct boom height, with any spray misses having nowhere to hide.

 

I always like to see the odd missed bit, as it shows the operator, the manager and even the landowner the efficacy of what we are spraying and the justification of spend.

 

A missed bit I have not been so comfortable witnessing recently is our mayweed control in spring barley which, having received a sulfonylurea/mecoprop herbicide at T1, seems to be showing complete resistance and is currently sitting as tall as the barley, with awns starting to emerge.

Quiet

 

Apart from the aforementioned issues, crops are looking well and, most importantly, are still standing as we enter the last full month before an August start to harvest.

 

With July being the month we all take our holidays, the farm can be a very quiet place at times with fruit pickers drafted in to clean grain stores and rogue wild oats and all of our trailers and machinery passing through the workshop.

 

With weekly potato blight spraying the only outstanding job before pre-harvest desiccation starts, these next few weeks are very much the calm before the storm.

Passionate

Away from the farm, June has been disrupted in a good way with a few outings for myself and the men.

 

The Angus Show took place at the beginning of the month and, although livestock were cancelled due to the weather, there was a very good turnout for what is a very good local show supported by most of our local dealerships.

 

We then had a three-day trip to the Fendt Factory in Bavaria, in the foothills of the Alps in Germany, which was a real eye-opener. It was great to see the production line from start to finish and the variety of tractors on it at the same time.

 

Finally, the Royal Highland show took place and, as ever, was an absolute spectacle of everything we should be so proud of in Scottish and UK agriculture.

 

I am passionate about the Highland, in particular its ability to deliver a fantastic day out regardless of your background and having been a regular now for the past 20 years it was nice, albeit a bit different, to have my two-year-old son Jamie toddling along beside me.

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