Russell is farm manager for John Sheard Farms and a partner in the family farm of D.J. Tebbit, responsible for a total of 995 hectares (2,457 acres), with land crossing into Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Cropping is split between winter wheat grown for seed, milling and feed, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, spring beans and spring oats. Russell is an AHDB monitor farmer and a 2014 Nuffield Scholar.
This rollercoaster of a spring seems to keep on going and we have seen temperatures nudging 3degC one week, to barely 6degC a week later.
I am sure crops are finding it confusing as they appeared to accelerate through growth stages in the balmy weather last week, I even had shorts on, whereas this week I am reaching for the bobble hat. Crazy times indeed.
But it did mean we have completed drilling in late, but decent conditions, the crucial element being the weather going forward for these late planted crops as to how they progress.
The biggest issue has been keeping on top of the workload and rightly I decided to press ahead with T0 sprays even though crops were starting to race through growth stages. I was concerned if we left everything to T1 (leaf 3 emergence) we would be taking a risk on the weather turning against us.
This certainly happened at the back end of last week with a return to windy and wet weather. There is no doubt in my mind this is brewing up in to a septoria season and we shall be maintaining decent dose rates of SDHI mixes at the T1 timing when we can get on. It can all change, but currently this is not the season to be frugal with fungicide dose rates.
Most jobs have been concertinaed in to a narrow window, with drilling, spraying and fertiliser spreading all requiring different levels of priorities. This is where one of our biggest headaches has been, especially with fertiliser spreading and an unreliable machine which is still not functioning properly.
I am grateful to the CA Agriculture team for coming in at short notice and getting our granular fertiliser spreading back on track as we were staring down the barrel of missing a window of opportunity. Great customer service, especially as the sprayer was tied up and it was not going to be practical to switch over to our liquid products.
On a more critical note, there is but a few days left to respond to Defra’s Command Paper on their vision for the shape of UK agricultural policy. This is a once in a generation opportunity to have farmers’ views (potentially) listened to and it is important as an industry we all respond as plenty of pressure groups which have no interest in farming or food production will.