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Talking Arable with Neil MacLeod: Turning our thoughts to autumn cropping

I am writing this month’s article early (July 14) as I am going on a weeks holiday tomorrow to the Pennines.

Any further south and my wife Catherine is concerned we will see combines rolling which she knows will only frustrate me and in turn frustrate her even more.

 

So a week in the hills should keep me far enough from any arable action she hopes.

 

Rain

 

I don’t usually go away this late, however, in the last three weeks we have had 70mm of rain, which has put paid to an early start to our harvest.

 

Last week we had 32mm fall in 40 minutes flooding our workshop and on the same day had 59mm fall in 90 minutes at our fruit farm, which in turn flooded 10 blueberry tunnels that sit in a bit of a hollow.


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Luckily we grow our blueberries in pots, so the plants were relatively unaffected.

 

However, we are now up there with the diggers trying to devise ways of slowing the water down further up the farm before it all collects at the lowest point.

 

Should we perhaps have thought about doing this before? Possibly, yes – however, where would we be without the benefit of hindsight.

 

Rain

 

In terms of our arable crops, we escaped the downpour relatively unscathed with a few pockets of winter barley brackling.

 

Had it occurred in three weeks, I fear the majority of our rapeseed would have ended up on the ground.

 

Potatoes

 

Unfortunately, the potato fields haven’t coped so well, with some of the waterlogged tramlines creating a baptism of fire for our newly-delivered sprayer on its inaugural run.

 

I must admit to feeling a pang of guilt, having spent more than £200,000 on a new sprayer to then introduce it to life in Scotland by means of what can only be described as a machine’s equivalent to Tough Mudder.

 

It was an assault which she came through with relative ease, I’m glad to report.

 

With winter barley desiccation a few days away, we should hopefully start harvest in the second week of August which, to be fair, is our usual.

 

This doesn’t give us long to then clear the baled straw, apply 1,500 tonnes of dung and make the ground ready for oilseed rape establishment before our end-of-August deadline.

 

With a gap likely between barley and oilseed rape harvest, however, at least I can throw enough men and machines at the job.

 

Varieties

 

Turning our thoughts to autumn cropping and varieties, Incentive, Acacia and SY Harnas will again make up the majority of our rape area.

 

We are also undertaking trials on behalf of Dekalb, growing eight varieties to be treated as per the farm standard.

 

KWS Glacier will be dropped as a winter barley variety, as we have found it particularly bad for brackling over the last three years.

 

It will be replaced by LG Mountain with KWS Orwell being grown for a second year.

 

For wheats, Bennington will be dropped due to its yellow rust susceptibility. We will stick with Revelation as a second wheat, due to its high eyespot score.

 

KWS Barrel continues to perform well and will be joined by LG Skyscraper. I try not to grow too many varieties, but if you don’t try new ones on your own land, you will never truly know how they will perform.

 

Although helpful, the AHDB Recommended List is a guide, but only a guide.

 

I must admit to never getting overly excited about variety trial visits unless they are here at Southesk where they are managed in the same way as the field crop that surrounds them.

 

Harvest

 

With harvest already started in the South and us now on a countdown, I would like to take the opportunity to wish all farmers, managers, operators and students all the best for the coming months for what should be a promising harvest.

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