Spring has finally sprung into action and from the never-ending winter we seem to have entered fine, sunny, and incredibly low humidity days followed by the usual and promised spring drought.
Our spring crops have finally been drilled, most a little later than we would have liked but with direct drilling you are waiting longer than with a cultivated field for them to be in a suitable condition.
Usually this is of benefit as you are planting into moisture. This year we have dropped the spring barley in favour of more oats – but I hope that we can have a more successful harvest - and a few more hectares of peas and spring beans.
Our sugar beet area has reduced from 40 hectares to 17ha and drilling was completed in record time. It seems a shame that the drill comes out of the shed now only for a couple of days a year.
We borrowed a Cousins V-Form to lift and make a strip to be planted into, and followed it with our drill two weeks later. The dry weather opened the slot and we had to roll the fields to preserve moisture, but the pellet seems to have gone into moisture and we have a clearer strip than last year which should improve establishment.
The sugar beet has been purposely drilled later than our usual end of March window to try and dodge the late frosts. I hope we get away with it this year and not get caught yet again.
The on-farm trial of growing intercrops continues with a 6ha field growing peas and oats together this year. They have been planted at a seed rate of roughly 100seeds/square metre of both.
This is a similar seed rate to the tramlines drilled last year and higher than some, but we hope to perfect the rate, so the peas are the more dominant, but the oats are able to help the peas stand, use any available nitrogen and outcompete weeds.
The pre-emergence herbicide has only been applied on half of the field, the rest receiving only glyphosate pre-drilling, I am hoping we won’t need to apply any other herbicide or potentially fungicides, but we will have to see how the season progresses. We will try and quantify the effectiveness of the intercrop on the number of weeds.
In the last week the winter wheat has progressed well except the latest drilled fields which have been hit hardest with the frost. These are the fields which suffered most from the high winter rainfall and slug pressure.
We have been applying lots of manganese and hopefully they will pull through. The earlier sown Skyfall was suffering with yellow rust and needed an early fungicide. It is scary for us to see how the variety’s resistance seems to be breaking down to disease and we will be probably looking to spread the risk with more varieties in the mix next year.
All of this progress on the farm has taken place whilst I have been preoccupied. We welcomed the arrival of our son Joshua at the end of March, slightly ahead of schedule. I take my hat off to all of you who manage to combine their time being a parent and running a business as I imagine it will take a good few months for us to determine how we will do it.
It seems that we are all being incentivised by Government policy to either grow the size of our business to be sustainable or diversify. We are diversifying and secured a LEADER grant to renovate a derelict farmhouse into a holiday let.
The project has taken longer than expected due to Covid delaying work and supplies and the adjoining cottage will be complete in the next week, so everything seems to have come at once, but farming has taught me that things rarely run to plan.