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Talking arable with Ian Matts: The relaxation of the three crop rule is a welcome relief

By the end of February we’d had nearly one metre of rain over the previous twelve months and well over
100 days of recordable rainfall since the intended start of drilling in late September.

Ian Matts
Ian Matts

After this, we, like most others were really holding out for a kind, early spring to play catch up, but sadly this has not been the case.

 

We didn’t get any further winter wheat drilled in January or February, as the only opportunity we had in early February was too late for the majority of seed we had in the shed, and if we were going to be left with any seed at the end of the spring, I would rather have the winter varieties for drilling in the autumn, rather than the spring ones.


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Changes

 

This wheat started to come through in early March and in places is moving quite fast, however
changes in soil type are very clear to identify, as any heavier soil has struggled with the cold and wet,
slowing emergence.

 

We chose to apply a pre-em to these for fear of a late flush of black-grass germination, however in hindsight that may not have been very wise as the level of rain that has fallen since has meant the chemicals have been washed down to the germinating seed, further slowing and restricting emergence.

 

Going forward I will be a bit more selective where the pre-ems are applied, as a competitive crop has got to be the first step to reducing the threat of black-grass.

 

Any further opportunities to restart drilling have been followed quickly by a shower or two before we’ve really been able to get going. However, this week looks set to be good, so hopefully the forecast will hold this time and we will actually be able to get going now.

 

We are focusing on spring wheat at the moment, due to the narrower window for drilling.

Winter beans

 

Some of the latest drilled winter beans are just starting to poke through. We are still persevering
with winter beans, but I’m not sure how much longer this will be viable.


The relaxation of the three crop rule is a welcome relief - although it shouldn’t be too restrictive for us
this year, it does just allow a bit of extra flexibility in a few areas to be able to make further changes
in cropping where necessary.

 

As the ground starts to dry out this could be very useful to pick the fields that will allow us to keep the drill going.

 

 

Positives

 

Looking for some of the positives at the moment, the recent global uncertainty and the drop in
sterling has led to a sharp increase in the wheat price, I’m just not sure how brave I dare to be,
considering the lack of crop in the ground.


I avoided starting by talking about the virus, but it is unavoidable to mention it. As if 2020 wasn’t a
challenging enough year, this seems to have taken things to a new level.

 

Self-isolating in tractors is
probably not as difficult as it must be for some businesses and individuals in towns and cities, but it
is causing a few challenges on the ground.

 

I guess we just need to be thankful that we can at least carry on in these difficult times. It may actually turn out to be good for UK agriculture in the long term as it helps focus the public’s mind on the most important things in life, with food clearly being one of them.

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