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Talking arable with Ian Matts: It is pleasing to see fields at long last turning from brown to green this spring

Well I guess it was fairly inevitable that a period of sustained wet weather was always going to be followed by a prolonged dry spell. Although this was very welcome at first, it began to add a different challenge into the mix.

After struggling to find opportunities to make the most of the drying conditions initially, soils slowly began to dry out on top, only to be left with a situation where we had concrete on the surface, but still putty underneath.

 

We were reluctant to move too much ground for fear of soils drying too much, but getting through the hardened surface was a challenge at times.

 

Thankfully though, we got both drills going before too long and were able to get all fields drilled by April 17, a pretty good finish date for us even in a normal situation, let alone when we had more than 2,000 hectares to drill in spring.

 


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Cover crops

 

My original plan, or at least one of them, was to put some of the ground into cover crops to improve the soil conditions and reduce the chances of a late harvested, low yielding, low value crop having a knock-on impact on next year’s establishment.

 

However, with prices increasing on the back of global uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and soils drying, I continued to increase the area of cropping, and now only have a few of the wettest fields in outlying blocks to put into cover crops.

 

It is pleasing to see fields at long last turning from brown to green this spring – it has been a long time coming.

 

Considering how things were looking just three weeks ago, I am now a lot more optimistic, with all crops drilled, most of which have gone into moisture and been rolled quickly after drilling to ensure the moisture is conserved.

Drilling

 

As a result, crops are starting to germinate and emerge quickly. There is one block, the latest drilled block of spring wheat, that we had to cultivate ahead of drilling and, as such, we have lost a bit too much moisture from the surface where the seed is sat.

 

Although it’s starting to come, it is a bit staggered and patchy at the moment. Without wishing to sound too stereotypically unhappy with the weather, we could probably do with a spot of rain before too long.

 

The team has done fantastically well this spring, getting all the drilling completed in such good time, everything rolled straight behind and almost all now having had its full complement of fertiliser, we are in a much better position than I expected to be for the middle of April.

 

It has helped to dramatically reduce the amount of pre-ems that have been applied due to the dry conditions and the desire not to hamper the emerging crop too much. I just hope this decision won’t come back to bite us later in the year.

Environment

 

With all drilling now completed, we will be turning attention to the small plot work next week.

 

I had intended to focus on the environmental work we carry out over the farms at Open Farm Sunday this June as the total area continues to increase every year. Previously established pollen and nectar plots on the whole are looking pretty well, with some just starting to come into flower.

 

As with the rest of the fields, the challenge now will be to create some decent seedbeds for the various options without losing too much moisture.

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