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Talking arable with Ian Matts: Oilseed rape drilling began later than planned

Harvest 2019 finally began for us this week, or at least that is what it feels like.

We started the winter barley in good conditions which saw us fly through it and although it was a bit wet when we started, this fell to record lows from the field of around 11% moisture.


I am pleased with the yields, averaging 9.5tonnes/hectare with nothing in it between the conventional variety KWS Orwell and the hybrid Belfry.


The OSR took very little time but yielded slightly better than expected on the one remaining block that established at 3.65t/ha.


This left us waiting for the wheat to ripen whilst dodging the showers.




Since the winter barley was finished, we have barely had two consecutive dry days, until this week. Despite the poor conditions, the morale of the team has largely held up, even if topping is not everyone’s favourite operation.


They have also been excellent at making the most of any half opportunity when it has arisen, and now we have had a few decent days in a row, they have really been able to get going.


At the time of writing we are nearly 60% through, with just the wheat, spring barley and winter beans ahead.

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The stand out crops so far have been an 80ha block of Gleam which was the first wheat to cut yielding 11.7t/ha.


Although this might also prove to be the highest yielding block, the early November drilled Mulika, targeted on bad black-grass fields, averaged 10t/ha and has largely all made full spec milling.


This is likely to have benefited from the sewage sludge and FYM applied last autumn, allowing a greater mineralisation of nitrogen as spring applications were not particularly high.





Oilseed rape drilling began later than planned this autumn, mainly as a result of the wet conditions.


Winter barley fields where straw was chopped had a mulch of straw lying on top which has stopped them from drying out, whilst the green straw at the start of harvest restricted the progress of baling.


The new drill seems to be achieving what we are looking for.


By creating a route for moisture to drain away from the seed, placing fertiliser underneath it, and maintaining a better, more uniform seed depth I am hoping for much better, more uniform establishment this season.


The conditions up to now have not been favourable for flea beetle, but with a decent forecast ahead I just hope the flea beetle migration isn’t going to coincide with crop emergence.



I recently participated in the Rothamsted flea beetle survey by sending off 50 samples collected from

the harvested heap.


Over the last couple of years, we have not sprayed any insecticide targeted at flea beetle due to the perceived level of resistance and the potential damage to beneficial species.


I expected the results to back up my suspicions but was not sure to what level, however the results came as something of a surprise to me.


At 18% resistance it is a lot lower than expected, but also a lot lower than most of the rest of the county, which appears to be around 40-60%, with some reports up to 90%.


I think it is a bit too much to claim anything on the back of not having sprayed over the last two years, but it now gives me a dilemma of what to do this autumn should we start seeing flea beetle damage.


Although our result was low, we are not going to be faced with this population alone, and with higher resistance from the rest of the county there is not a clear-cut answer.


Should we see the shot-holing this autumn I believe I may have to concede to a single application of insecticide, at least as a trial if nothing else, as the weight of last year’s crop loss is still playing heavily on my mind!