As I write, it feels like the calm before the storm. Usually around this time we would be flat out with T2’s on wheat, but that will not take long this year and we are now playing a waiting game for the spring cereals.
As is the case nationally, we have seen high yellow rust pressure this spring in winter and spring wheat varieties, which have been causing a bit of a nuisance to otherwise clean plants.
On the whole, crops have established well, coming up quickly, irrespective of which establishment method was employed.
Even the last drilled block of spring wheat, where I thought we may have lost too much moisture, is now looking very good.
Having come up quickly, crops have stalled a bit as they run short of moisture, particularly some of the direct drilled spring barley.
The spring oats on the other hand came racing out of the ground and have not looked back since.
We have been lucky here to have had a few decent rain events since we finished drilling, which has helped to some extent, but some of the spring barley could really do with a bit more.
I am getting more confused than ever about the principles of cover cropping. I have read quite a lot about the principles of regenerative agriculture over the last 12 months and I believe a lot of it makes real sense, especially when we are facing a dramatic change in crop rotation due to the loss of one chemical.
The principles of cover cropping also make sense, improving the condition of soils over winter, feeding the microbiology in the soil, adding carbon and air channels. We tried using cover crops over the last six years and although I buy into the thinking, I have so far not been impressed with the results.
The same goes for volunteers this spring. With so much brown soil over winter, I delayed spraying off volunteers on some ground with the thought that the volunteers could act as cover and improve the conditions in spring.
Considering the amount of rain we had over winter, I would have thought this would be a year when there was a real difference between brown soil left ‘sad’ over winter and those with cover on.
However, anywhere a cover crop has been in place, establishment has been hindered. This is particularly stark where we sprayed off patches of wheat last year, leading to no volunteers this winter.
The establishment in these areas has been so much better than elsewhere due to a combination of allelopathy and higher slug pressure.
We are still focusing on methods of improving soils, but for how much longer this will include cover cropping, I’m not sure.
Regarding this spring’s environmental work, the stewardship plots were all established in good time, with the team cultivating drilling and rolling in quick succession where required, to ensure as much moisture as possible was conserved.
The winter bird food plots are coming up quite well, but the nectar flower mixes, being so shallow, could probably do with further rain. The established nectar flower mixes are coming well.