The New Year has started as 2018 finished, warmer and drier than average. Although we have now had some frosts and even a small fluttering of snow, ground conditions are still unseasonably good.
There are two ways this could develop this season, neither of which look particularly promising.
Fieldwork was all completed in good time at the end of last year, meaning little has been required so far. Some of the cover crops which were left over winter have now been sprayed off as, with so much biomass, these will take a long time to die back before we look to drill spring barley.
We have not been tempted to make an early start with spring barley drilling given the good soil conditions, not least because the seed has not been delivered. Being a continental variety, the message has always been to hold off drilling until March 15 and seed delivery to farm is deliberately slow to reduce the temptation. This has not been a problem for us in the last few years as we are not normally able to make a start until well into April.
Last year we invested in some new coulters for the Horsch CO drill which, although they had limited use last spring, they really came into their own last autumn. The drill is due for replacement and the flexibility it now offers, to drill into cultivated ground or direct into stubble or late for black-grass, is a real selling point for me. Although we have had good success with the Weaving GD drill, I feel it is a little too limited for our situations to be able to get the best out of it.
The fertiliser spreader has now made it back on-farm, having spent winter at the dealers due to the number of problems it had last year. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a few software glitches on the machine, but this has now hopefully been sorted. Having not had the spreader on-farm we have not been able to calibrate it, but SCS is due to come out shortly, after which we will look to make a start putting some nitrogen on the oilseed rape and winter barley crops. These have both been growing all winter and the barley in particular has just started to yellow, so a bit of early nitrogen will help to feed it and ensure we do not get caught out like last year if the weather turns against us this spring.
March 29 seems to be coming around quickly and, as it stands, we are still no clearer on what March 30 will look like, but I am sure when it comes to it, we are not really going to notice too much change from the day before. I have listened to many people giving their opinions over the last few months and one common thread is Brexit is only really a stimulus for considering the things we should be focused on already. Whatever the outcome, it is clear direct support for farming is not going to be with us in the long-term and as such we should be planning for the adjustment as soon as possible.